Movie and TV Reviews

Reviews for New Releases: April 1 – May 27, 2022

9 Bullets (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)
21mu Tiffin (Photo courtesy of Vijaygiri FilmOs)
Aline (Photo by Jean-Marie Leroy/Roadside Attractions/Samuel Goldwyn Films)
All My Puny Sorrows (Photo courtesy of Momentum Pictures)
Ambulance (Photo by Andrew Cooper/Universal Pictures)
The Ancestral (Photo courtesy of T2 Group)
The Bad Guys (Image courtesy of DreamWorks Animation)
Barbarians (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)
Better Nate Than Ever (Photo by David Lee/Disney Enterprises Inc.)
Black Box (Photo by Thibault Grabherr/Film Distrib US/Icarus Films)
The Bob’s Burgers Movie (Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios)
The Cellar (Photo by Martin Maguire/RLJE Films/Shudder)
The Contractor (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)
Cow (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)
The Devil You Know (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios)
Downton Abbey: A New Era (Photo by Ben Blackall/Focus Features)
The Duke (Photo courtesy of Pathé UK/Sony Pictures Classics)
Emergency (Photo by Quantrell Colbert/Amazon Content Services)
Escape the Field (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)
Family Camp (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions)
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (Photo by Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Pictures)
Father Stu (Photo by Karen Ballard/Columbia Pictures)
Firebird (Photo by Herrki-Erich Merila/Roadside Attractions/The Factory)
Firestarter (Photo by Ken Woroner/Universal Pictures)
Hatching (Photo courtesy of IFC Films/IFC Midnight)
Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story (Photo courtesy of The Kennedy/Marshall Company and Sony Pictures Classics)
Memory (Photo courtesy of Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment)
Men (Photo by Kevin Baker/A24)
Montana Story (Photo courtesy of Bleecker Street)
Morbius (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures)
Navalny (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
The Northman (Photo by Aidan Monaghan/Focus Features)
Paris, 13th District (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)
Petite Maman (Photo courtesy of Lilies Films/Neon)
Pleasure (Photo courtesy of Neon)
Room 203 (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Sega of America)
The Sound of Violet (Photo courtesy of Atlas Distribution)
Take Me to the River: New Orleans (Photo courtesy of 360 Distribution)
Tankhouse (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)
Top Gun: Maverick (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (Photo by Katalin Vermes/Lionsgate)
Wyrmwood: Apocalypse (Photo by Thom Davies/XYZ Films)
¿Y Cómo Es Él? (Photo courtesy of Pantelion Films)
You Won’t Be Alone (Photo by Branko Starcevic/Focus Features)

Complete List of Reviews

1BR — horror

2/1 — drama

2 Graves in the Desert — drama

2 Hearts — drama

2 Minutes of Fame — comedy

5 Years Apart — comedy

7 Days (2022) — comedy

8 Billion Angels — documentary

8-Bit Christmas — comedy

The 8th Night — horror

9 Bullets — drama

9to5: The Story of a Movement — documentary

12 Hour Shift — horror

12 Mighty Orphans — drama

17 Blocks — documentary

21mu Tiffin — drama

37 Seconds — drama

76 Days — documentary

The 355 — action

The 420 Movie (2020) — comedy

499 — docudrama

2040 — documentary

7500 — drama

Abe — drama

About Endlessness — comedy/drama

Above Suspicion (2021) — drama

The Addams Family 2 — animation

Adverse — drama

Advocate — documentary

The Affair (2021) (formerly titled The Glass Room) — drama

After Class (formerly titled Safe Spaces) — comedy/drama

After Parkland — documentary

After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News — documentary

After Yang — sci-fi/drama

Ailey — documentary

AKA Jane Roe — documentary

Algorithm: Bliss — sci-fi/horror

Alice (2022) — drama

Aline (2021) — drama

All Day and a Night — drama

All I Can Say — documentary

All In: The Fight for Democracy — documentary

All Light, Everywhere — documentary

All My Friends Hate Me — comedy/drama

All My Life — drama

All My Puny Sorrows — drama

All Roads to Pearla (formerly titled Sleeping in Plastic) — drama

All the Bright Places — drama

Almost Love (also titled Sell By) — comedy/drama

Alone (2020) (starring Jules Willcox) — horror

Alone (2020) (starring Tyler Posey) — horror

Alpha Rift — action

The Alpinist — documentary

Amazing Grace (2018) — documentary

Ambulance (2022) — action

American Fighter — drama

American Gadfly — documentary

An American Pickle — comedy

American Street Kid — documentary

American Underdog — drama

American Woman (2020) — drama

Ammonite — drama

Amulet — horror

The Ancestral — horror

And Then We Danced — drama

Annette — musical

Another Round — drama

Antebellum — horror

Anthony — drama

Antlers (2021) — horror

Apocalypse ’45 — documentary

The Apollo — documentary

The Arbors — sci-fi/horror

The Argument — comedy

Army of the Dead (2021) — horror

Artemis Fowl — fantasy

The Artist’s Wife — drama

Ascension (2021) — documentary

Ask for Jane — drama

Ask No Questions — documentary

As of Yet — comedy/drama

The Assistant — drama

At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal — documentary

Athlete A — documentary

Attack of the Murder Hornets — documentary

Azor — drama

Baby God — documentary

Babysplitters — comedy

Babyteeth — drama

Bacurau — drama

Bad Boys for Life — action

Bad Detectives (formerly titled Year of the Detectives) — drama

Bad Education (2020) — drama

The Bad Guys (2022) — animation

Badhaai Do — comedy/drama

Bad Therapy (formerly titled Judy Small) — comedy/drama

Ballad of a White Cow — drama

Banana Split — comedy

Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art — documentary

A Banquet — horror

Barbarians (2022) — horror

Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar — comedy

The Batman — sci-fi/action

The Battle at Lake Changjin — action

The Battle at Lake Changjin II — action

Beanpole — drama

Beast Beast — drama

Beastie Boys Story — documentary

The Beatles: Get Back — documentary

The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert — documentary

Becoming — documentary

Behind You — horror

Being the Ricardos — drama

Belfast (2021) — drama

Belle (2021) — animation

Beneath Us — horror

Benedetta (also titled Blessed Virgin) — drama

Bergman Island (2021) — drama

Best Sellers (2021) — comedy/drama

The Beta Test — comedy/drama

Better Nate Than Ever — comedy/drama

Big Time Adolescence — comedy/drama

The Big Ugly — drama

Billie (2020) — documentary

Bill & Ted Face the Music — sci-fi/comedy

The Binge — comedy

Bingo Hell — horror

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) — fantasy/action

Black as Night — horror

Black Bear — drama

Blackbird (2020) — drama

Black Box (2020) — horror

Black Box (2021) — drama

Black Is King — musical

Blacklight — action

Black Magic for White Boys — comedy

Black Widow (2021) — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Blast Beat — drama

The Blazing World (2021) — horror

Blessed Child — documentary

Blithe Spirit (2021) — comedy

Blood and Money — drama

Blood Conscious — horror

Blood on Her Name — drama

Bloodshot (2020) — sci-fi/action

Bloodthirsty (2021) — horror

Bloody Hell — horror

Blow the Man Down — drama

Blue Bayou (2021) — drama

Blue Story — drama

Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island — horror

The Bob’s Burgers Movie — animation

Body Cam — horror

The Body Fights Back — documentary

Bố Già (Dad, I’m Sorry) — comedy/drama

Boogie — drama

The Booksellers — documentary

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm — comedy

The Boss Baby: Family Business — animation

The Boys (first episode) — fantasy/action

Brahms: The Boy II — horror

Breaking (2022) (formerly titled 892) — drama

Breaking Fast — comedy

Breaking News in Yuba County — comedy

Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists — documentary

The Broken Hearts Gallery — comedy

Brothers by Blood (formerly titled The Sound of Philadelphia) — drama

Browse — drama

Buckley’s Chance — drama

Buffaloed — comedy

Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn — documentary

Burden (2020) — drama

Burning Cane — drama

The Burning Sea — action

Burn It All — drama

The Burnt Orange Heresy — drama

Cactus Jack — horror

Cagefighter — drama

Calendar Girl (2022) — documentary

The Call of the Wild (2020) — live-action/animation

A Call to Spy — drama

Call Your Mother — documentary

Candyman (2021) — horror

Cane River — drama

Capone — drama

The Card Counter — drama

Carmilla — drama

Castle in the Ground — drama

Catch the Bullet — action

Catch the Fair One — drama

The Cellar (2022) — horror

Censor (2021) — horror

Centigrade — drama

Cha Cha Real Smooth — comedy/drama

Chance the Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring World — documentary

Changing the Game (2021) — documentary

Chasing the Present — documentary

Chasing Wonders — drama

Chehre — drama

Chick Fight — comedy

Children of the Sea — animation

Chinese Doctors — drama

Chop Chop — horror

Circus of Books — documentary

City of Lies — drama

Clean (2022) — drama

The Cleaner (2021) — drama

The Clearing (2020) — horror

Clementine — drama

Clifford the Big Red Dog (2021) — live-action/animation

Cliff Walkers (formerly titled Impasse) — drama

The Climb (2020) — comedy/drama

Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind: Contact Has Begun — documentary

Cloudy Mountain (2021) — action

Clover — drama

C’mon C’mon — drama

Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert — documentary

CODA — comedy/drama

Coded Bias (formerly titled Code for Bias) — documentary

Coffee & Kareem — comedy

Collective — documentary

Color Out of Space — sci-fi/horror

The Columnist — horror

Come as You Are (2020) — comedy

Come Play — horror

Come to Daddy — horror

Come True — sci-fi/drama

Coming 2 America — comedy

Compartment No. 6 — drama

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It — horror

Console Wars — documentary

The Contractor (2022) (formerly titled Violence of Action) — action

Copshop (2021) — action

The Cordillera of Dreams — documentary

Count Basie: Through His Own Eyes — documentary

The Courier (2021) (formerly titled Ironbark) — drama

Cow (2022) — documentary

The Craft: Legacy — horror

Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words — documentary

Creem: America’s Only Rock’n’Roll Magazine — documentary

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution — documentary

Crisis (2021) — drama

Critical Thinking — drama

Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane MacGowan — documentary

The Croods: A New Age — animation

Crown Vic — drama

CRSHD — comedy

Cruella — comedy/drama

Cry Macho — drama

Cryptozoo — animation

The Cursed (2022) (formerly titled Eight for Silver) — horror

The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw — horror

The Curse of La Patasola — horror

Cut Throat City — drama

Cyrano (2021) — musical

Da 5 Bloods — drama

Daddy Issues (2020) — comedy

Dads — documentary

Dangerous Lies — drama

Dara of Jasenovac — drama

The Dark Divide — drama

Dark Web: Cicada 3301 — action/comedy

Dating & New York — comedy

Dave Not Coming Back — documentary

Dawn Raid — documentary

A Day in the Life of America — documentary

Days of Rage: The Rolling Stones’ Road to Altamont — documentary

Days of the Whale — drama

A Deadly Legend — horror

Deadstream — horror

Dear Evan Hansen — musical

Dear Santa — documentary

Death in Texas — drama

Death of a Telemarketer — comedy

Death on the Nile (2022) — drama

Decade of Fire — documentary

The Deeper You Dig — horror

Deep Water (2022) — drama

Deerskin — comedy

The Delicacy — documentary

Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil — documentary

Demonic (2021) — horror

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba The Movie: Mugen Train — animation

Denise Ho—Becoming the Song — documentary

Desolation Center — documentary

Desperados — comedy

The Desperate Hour (formerly titled Lakewood) — drama

The Devil Below (formerly titled Shookum Hills) — horror

Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge — horror

Devil’s Pie—D’Angelo — documentary

The Devil You Know (2022) — drama

Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy — documentary

Die in a Gunfight — action

Disappearance at Clifton Hill — drama

The Disappearance of Mrs. Wu — comedy/drama

Disclosure (2020) — documentary

Diving With Dolphins — documentary

The Djinn — horror

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Dog (2022) — comedy/drama

The Dog Doc — documentary

Dolittle — live-action/animation

Dolphin Island — drama

Dolphin Reef — documentary

Do Not Reply — horror

Don’t Breathe 2 — horror

Don’t Look Back (2020) (formerly titled Good Samaritan) — horror

Don’t Look Up (2021) — comedy

The Doorman (2020) — action

Dosed — documentary

Downhill — comedy

Downton Abbey: A New Era — drama

Dream Horse — drama

Dreamland (2020) (starring Margot Robbie) — drama

Drive My Car (2021) — drama

Driven to Abstraction — documentary

Driveways — drama

Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America — documentary

The Dry — drama

The Duke (2021) — drama

Dune (2021) — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Duty Free — documentary

Earwig — horror

Easy Does It — comedy

The East (2021) — drama

Eggs Over Easy — documentary

El Cuartito — comedy/drama

Elephant (2020) — documentary

Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things — documentary

Embattled — drama

Emergency (2022) — comedy

Emma (2020) — comedy/drama

The Emoji Story (formerly titled Picture Character) — documentary

Encanto — animation

Endangered Species (2021) — drama

End of Sentence — drama

Enemies of the State (2021) — documentary

Enforcement (formerly titled Shorta) — drama

Enhanced (2021) (also titled Mutant Outcasts) — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Enola Holmes — drama

Entwined (2020) — horror

Epicentro — documentary

Escape From Mogadishu — drama

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions — horror

Escape the Field — horror

Eternals (2021) — sci-fi/fantasy/action

The Etruscan Smile (also titled Rory’s Way) — drama

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga — comedy

Everything Everywhere All at Once — sci-fi/action

Evil Eye (2020) — horror

The Evil Next Door — horror

Exit Plan — drama

Extraction (2020) — action

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021) — drama

F9 — action

A Fall From Grace — drama

Falling (2021) — drama

Falling for Figaro — comedy/drama

The Fallout — drama

Family Camp — comedy

Family Squares — comedy/drama

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore — fantasy

Farewell Amor — drama

Fatal Affair (2020) — drama

Fatale — drama

The Father (2021) — drama

Father Stu — drama

Fatima (2020) — drama

Fatman — comedy

Fear of Rain — horror

The Feast (2021) — horror

The Fight (2020) — documentary

Finch — sci-fi/drama

Finding Kendrick Johnson — documentary

Finding You (2021) — drama

Firebird (2021) — drama

Fire of Love (2022) — documentary

Firestarter (2022) — horror

First Cow — drama

First Date (2021) — comedy

Flag Day — drama

Flashback (2021) (formerly titled The Education of Frederick Fitzell) — drama

Flee — documentary/animation

Flipped (2020) — comedy

Force of Nature (2020) — action

The Forever Purge — horror

For They Know Not What They Do — documentary

The Forty-Year-Old Version — comedy

Four Good Days — drama

Four Kids and It — fantasy

Framing John DeLorean — documentary

Freaky — horror

Free Guy — sci-fi/action

The French Dispatch — comedy

French Exit — comedy/drama

Fresh (2022) — horror

Friendsgiving — comedy

From the Vine — comedy/drama

Funhouse (2021) — horror

Gaia (2021) — horror

Game of Death (2020) — horror

Ganden: A Joyful Land — documentary

Gap Year (2020) — documentary

The Garden Left Behind — drama

The Gasoline Thieves — drama

The Gateway (2021) — drama

Gay Chorus Deep South — documentary

The Gentlemen — action

Get Duked! (formerly titled Boyz in the Wood) — comedy

Get Gone — horror

Ghostbusters: Afterlife — comedy/horror

The Ghost of Peter Sellers — documentary

Ghosts of the Ozarks — horror

A Girl From Mogadishu — drama

A Girl Missing — drama

A Glitch in the Matrix — documentary

The God Committee — drama

Godzilla vs. Kong — sci-fi/fantasy/action

The Go-Go’s — documentary

Gold (2022) — drama

Golden Arm — comedy

Goldie — drama

Good Posture — comedy

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind — documentary

Greed — comedy/drama

The Green Knight — horror/fantasy

Greenland — sci-fi/action

Gretel & Hansel — horror

Greyhound — drama

The Grudge (2020) — horror

Guest of Honour — drama

The Guilty (2021) — drama

Gunda — documentary

Half Brothers — comedy

The Half of It — comedy

Halloween Kills — horror

Halloween Party (2020) — horror

Happiest Season — comedy

The Harder They Fall (2021) — action

Hard Luck Love Song — drama

Hatching — horror

The Hater (2022) — comedy/drama

Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics — documentary

Haymaker (2021) — drama

Healing From Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation — documentary

He Dreams of Giants — documentary

Held — horror

Hell Hath No Fury (2021) — action

Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful — documentary

Here After (2021) (formerly titled Faraway Eyes) — drama

Here Are the Young Men — drama

Here Today — comedy/drama

A Hero — drama

Hero Dog: The Journey Home — drama

Hero Mode — comedy

Herself — drama

The High Note — comedy/drama

His House — horror

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard — action

Hive — drama

A Holiday Chance — comedy/drama

Holler — drama

Holly Slept Over — comedy

Honest Thief — action

Hooking Up (2020) — comedy

Hope Gap — drama

Horse Girl — sci-fi/drama

The Host (2020) — horror

Hosts — horror

Hotel Transylvania: Transformania — animation

The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2 — comedy/horror

House of Gucci — drama

House of Hummingbird — drama

How It Ends (2021) — comedy

How to Build a Girl — comedy

How to Fix a Primary — documentary

Huda’s Salon — drama

Human Capital (2020) — drama

Human Nature (2020) — documentary

The Humans (2021) — drama

The Hunt — horror

Hunter Hunter — horror

Hypochondriac (2022) — horror

Hysterical (2021) — documentary

I Am Human — documentary

I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story — drama

I Am Vengeance: Retaliation — action

I Carry You With Me — drama

If I Can’t Have You: The Jodi Arias Story — documentary

I Hate New York — documentary

I Hate the Man in My Basement — drama

I Love My Dad — comedy

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me — documentary

Impractical Jokers: The Movie — comedy

I’m Thinking of Ending Things — drama

I’m Your Man (2021) — sci-fi/comedy/drama

I’m Your Woman — drama

Incitement — drama

India Sweets and Spices — comedy/drama

Infamous (2020) — drama

The Infiltrators — docudrama

Infinite Storm — drama

The Informer (2020) — drama

Initials SG — drama

Inna De Yard: The Soul of Jamaica — documentary

In Our Mothers’ Gardens — documentary

Instaband — documentary

In the Earth — horror

In the Footsteps of Elephant — documentary

In the Heights — musical

Intrusion (2021) — drama

The Invisible Man (2020) — horror

Iron Mask (formerly titled The Mystery of the Dragon Seal) — fantasy/action

Irresistible (2020) — comedy

I Still Believe — drama

Italian Studies — drama

It Takes a Lunatic — documentary

It Takes Three (2021) — comedy

I Used to Go Here — comedy/drama

I’ve Got Issues — comedy

I Want My MTV — documentary

I Will Make You Mine — drama

Jackass Forever — comedy

Jakob’s Wife — horror

Jay Myself — documentary

Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story — documentary

Jethica — comedy/drama

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey — musical

Jiu Jitsu — sci-fi/action

Jockey (2021) — drama

Joe Bell (formerly titled Good Joe Bell) — drama

John and the Hole — drama

John Henry — action

John Lewis: Good Trouble — documentary

JonBenét Ramsey: What Really Happened? — documentary

A Journal for Jordan — drama

Judas and the Black Messiah (formerly titled Jesus Was My Homeboy) — drama

Judy & Punch — drama

Jujutsu Kaisen 0 — animation

Jungle Cruise — fantasy/action

Jungleland (2020) — drama

Kajillionaire — comedy/drama

Karen (2021) — drama

Kat and the Band — comedy

Kaye Ballard: The Show Goes On! — documentary

Kicking Blood — horror

Kid Candidate — documentary

Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections — documentary

Killer Among Us — horror

Killer Therapy — horror

Killian & the Comeback Kids — drama

The Killing of Two Lovers — drama

The Kill Team (2019) — drama

Kill the Monsters — drama

The Kindness of Strangers — drama

Kindred — drama

The King of Staten Island — comedy/drama

King Otto — documentary

King Richard — drama

The King’s Daughter (formerly titled The Moon and the Sun) — fantasy/drama

The King’s Man — action

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time — documentary

La Guerra Civil — documentary

Lair — horror

La Llorona — horror

Lamb (2021) — horror

Land (2021) — drama

Lansky (2021) — drama

The Last Duel (2021) — drama

The Last Full Measure — drama

The Last Glaciers — documentary

Last Night in Soho — horror

The Last Vermeer — drama

The Lawyer — drama

Leftover Women — documentary

Les Misérables (2019) — drama

Let Him Go — drama

Licorice Pizza — comedy/drama

The Lie (2020) — drama

Life in a Day 2020 — documentary

Like a Boss — comedy

Limbo (2021) — comedy/drama

Limerence — comedy

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice — documentary

Lingua Franca — drama

Little Fish (2021) — sci-fi/drama

The Little Things (2021) — drama

The Lodge — horror

The Longest Wave — documentary

Long Live Rock…Celebrate the Chaos — documentary

Long Weekend (2021) — sci-fi/drama

Lorelei (2021) — drama

Lost Bayou — drama

The Lost City (2022) — comedy

The Lost Daughter (2021) — drama

Lost Girls — drama

Lost Transmissions — drama

Los Últimos Frikis — documentary

A Lot of Nothing — comedy/drama

Love and Monsters — sci-fi/horror/action

The Lovebirds — comedy

Love Is Love Is Love — drama

Love Sarah — comedy/drama

Love Type D — comedy

Love Wedding Repeat — comedy

Low Tide — drama

Luca (2021) — animation

Lucky Grandma — action

Lucy and Desi — documentary

Luz: The Flower of Evil — horror

LX 2048 — sci-fi/drama

Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over — documentary

Ma Belle, My Beauty — drama

Madres (2021) — horror

Mai Khoi & the Dissidents — documentary

The Main Event (2020) — action

Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound— documentary

Malignant (2021) — horror

Mallory (2021) — documentary

Mama Weed — comedy/drama

Mandibles — comedy

Mank — drama

The Manor (2021) — horror

The Man Who Sold His Skin — drama

The Many Saints of Newark — drama

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — drama

Marathon (2021) — comedy

Mark, Mary & Some Other People — comedy

The Marksman (2021) — action

Marry Me (2022) — comedy

Martha: A Picture Story — documentary

Martin Margiela: In His Own Words — documentary

Masquerade (2021) — horror

Mass (2021) — drama

Master (2022) — horror

The Matrix Resurrections — sci-fi/action

Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back — documentary

The Mauritanian — drama

Mayday (2021) — action

Measure of Revenge — drama

Meat Me Halfway — documentary

Memoria (2021) — sci-fi/drama

Memory (2022) — action

Men (2022) — horror

Midnight in the Switchgrass — drama

Mighty Ira — documentary

Mighty Oak — drama

Military Wives — comedy/drama

The Mimic (2021) — comedy

Minari — drama

The Mindfulness Movement — documentary

Misbehaviour — drama

Miss Americana — documentary

Miss Juneteenth — drama

The Mitchells vs. the Machines — animation

MLK/FBI — documentary

Moffie — drama

The Mole Agent — documentary

Monday (2021) — drama

Monster Family 2 — animation

Monster Hunter — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Montana Story — drama

Moonfall (2022) — sci-fi/action

Morbius — horror/action

Mortal — sci-fi/action

Mortal Kombat (2021) — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Most Dangerous Game — sci-fi/action

Most Wanted (formerly titled Target Number One) — drama

Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You. — docudrama

Mothering Sunday — drama

A Mouthful of Air — drama

Move Me (2022) — documentary

Mr. Soul! — documentary

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado — documentary

Mulan (2020) — fantasy/action

Murder in the Front Row: The San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal Story — documentary

Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story — documentary

My Boyfriend’s Meds — comedy

My Country, My Parents (also titled My Country, My Family) — drama

My Dad’s Christmas Date — comedy/drama

My Darling Vivian — documentary

My Love (2021) — comedy/drama

My Octopus Teacher — documentary

My Salinger Year (also titled My New York Year) — drama

My Spy — comedy

Mystify: Michael Hutchence — documentary

Naked Singularity — drama

Nanny — horror

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind — documentary

National Champions — drama

Navalny — documentary

Needle in a Timestack — sci-fi/drama

The Nest (2020) — drama

Never Forget Tibet — documentary

Never Gonna Snow Again — drama

Never Rarely Sometimes Always — drama

Never Stop (2021) — drama

Never Too Late (2020) — comedy

New Order (2021) — drama

News of the World — drama

A Nice Girl Like You — comedy

The Night (2021) — horror

The Night House — horror

Nightmare Alley (2021) — drama

Night of the Kings — drama

Nightride (2022) — drama

Nina Wu — drama

Nine Days — drama

Nitram — drama

Noah Land — drama

Nobody (2021) — sci-fi/action

Nocturne (2020) — horror

No Exit (2022) — drama

Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin — documentary

Nomadland — drama

No Man’s Land (2021) — drama

The Northman —fantasy/action

No Small Matter — documentary

No Time to Die (2021) — action

Notturno — documentary

The Novice (2021) — drama

The Nowhere Inn — comedy/drama

Objects — documentary

Old — horror

The Old Guard — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Old Henry (2021) — drama

Olympia — documentary

Olympic Dreams — comedy/drama

On Broadway (2021) — documentary

Once Upon a River — drama

Once Upon a Time in Uganda — documentary

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band — documentary

One Hour Outcall — drama

One Night in Bangkok — drama

One Night in Miami… — drama

Only — sci-fi/drama

The Only One (2021) — drama

On the Record — documentary

On the Rocks (2020) — drama

On the Trail: Inside the 2020 Primaries — documentary

Onward — animation

Open — drama

Ordinary Love — drama

Origin of the Species (2021) — documentary

Otherhood — comedy

The Other Lamb — drama

Other Music — documentary

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles — documentary

Our Friend (formerly titled The Friend) — drama

Our Ladies — comedy/drama

Our Time Machine — documentary

The Outfit (2022) — drama

Out of Blue — drama

The Outpost — drama

Out Stealing Horses — drama

The Painter and the Thief — documentary

Palm Springs —sci-fi/comedy

Paper Spiders — drama

The Paper Tigers — action

Parallel (2020) — sci-fi/drama

Parallel Mothers — drama

Paranormal Prison — horror

Paris, 13th District — drama

Parkland Rising — documentary

Passing (2021) — drama

A Patient Man — drama

PAW Patrol: The Movie — animation

A Perfect Enemy — drama

The Personal History of David Copperfield — comedy/drama

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway — live-action/animation

Petite Maman — drama

Phobias (2021) — horror

The Photograph — drama

Pig (2021) — drama

The Place of No Words — drama

The Planters — comedy

Playing God (2021) — comedy

Pleasure (2021) — drama

Plucked — documentary

Plus One (2019) — comedy

The Pollinators — documentary

Pornstar Pandemic: The Guys — documentary

Port Authority (2021) — drama

Possessor Uncut — sci-fi/horror

The Power of the Dog — drama

Premature (2020) — drama

The Prey (2020) — action

The Price of Desire — drama

The Princess (2022) — documentary

Prisoners of the Ghostland — sci-fi/action

Profile (2021) — drama

Project Power — sci-fi/action

Promising Young Woman — comedy/drama

The Protégé (2021) — action

Proxima — sci-fi/drama

P.S. Burn This Letter Please — documentary

Public Enemy Number One — documentary

PVT CHAT — drama

Queenpins — comedy

The Quiet One (2019) — documentary

A Quiet Place Part II — sci-fi/horror

Quo Vadis, Aida? — drama

The Racer — drama

Radioactive — drama

Raging Fire — action

A Rainy Day in New York — comedy

Raising Buchanan — comedy

Rare Beasts — comedy

Ravening (formerly titled Aamis) — drama

Raya and the Last Dragon — animation

Rebuilding Paradise — documentary

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project — documentary

Redeeming Love — drama

Red Penguins — documentary

Red Rocket — comedy/drama

Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs — animation

A Regular Woman — drama

Relic — horror

Reminiscence (2021) — sci-fi/drama

The Rental (2020) — horror

Rent-A-Pal — horror

The Rescue List — documentary

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City — horror

Resistance (2020) — drama

Respect (2021) — drama

Retaliation (formerly titled Romans) — drama

The Retreat (2021) — horror

Rewind — documentary

The Rhythm Section — action

The Ride (2020) — drama

Ride Like a Girl — drama

Riders of Justice — drama

Ride the Eagle — comedy/drama

The Right One — comedy

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It — documentary

River City Drumbeat — documentary

RK/RKAY — comedy

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain — documentary

Roald Dahl’s The Witches — horror/fantasy

Robert the Bruce — drama

Ron’s Gone Wrong — animation

The Rookies (2021) — action

Room 203 — horror

Run (2020) — drama

Runner — documentary

Run With the Hunted — drama

Rushed — drama

Ruth: Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words — documentary

Safer at Home — drama

Saint Frances — comedy/drama

Saint Maud — horror

Saloum — horror

Save Yourselves! — sci-fi/horror/comedy

Saving Paradise — drama

The Scheme (2020) — documentary

Scheme Birds — documentary

School’s Out Forever — horror

Scoob! — animation

Scream (2022) — horror

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street — documentary

Screened Out — documentary

Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth (formerly titled Seahorse) — documentary

Seberg — drama

The Secret: Dare to Dream — drama

A Secret Love — documentary

The Secrets We Keep — drama

See for Me — horror

See Know Evil — documentary

See You Yesterday — sci-fi/drama

Selah and the Spades — drama

Sell/Buy/Date — documentary

Separation (2021) — horror

Sergio (2020) — drama

Sesame Street: 50 Years of Sunny Days — documentary

Settlers (2021) — sci-fi/drama

The Seventh Day (2021) — horror

Shadows of Freedom — documentary

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings — fantasy/action

Shattered (2022) — drama

She Dies Tomorrow — drama

She’s in Portland — drama

Shine Your Eyes — drama

Shirley — drama

Shithouse — comedy/drama

Shortcut — horror

The Short History of the Long Road — drama

A Shot Through the Wall — drama

Showbiz Kids — documentary

The Show’s the Thing: The Legendary Promoters of Rock — documentary

Siberia (2021) — drama

Silent Night (2021) (starring Keira Knightley) — comedy/drama

Silk Road (2021) — drama

A Simple Wedding — comedy

Sing 2 — animation

The Sinners (2021) (also titled The Virgin Sinners; formerly titled The Color Rose) — horror

Sissy — horror

Six Minutes to Midnight — drama

Skate Dreams — documentary

Ski Bum: The Warren Miller Story — documentary

Skin Deep: The Battle Over Morgellons — documentary

Skin Walker — horror

Skyman — sci-fi/drama

Slay the Dragon — documentary

Small Engine Repair (2021) — comedy/drama

Smiley Face Killers — horror

Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Sno Babies — drama

Soft & Quiet — drama

Somebody Up There Likes Me (2020) — documentary

Some Kind of Heaven — documentary

Sometimes Always Never — comedy/drama

The Sonata — horror

Songbird — sci-fi/drama

Sonic the Hedgehog — live-action/animation

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 — live-action/animation

Son of Monarchs — drama

Sorry We Missed You — drama

Soul — animation

Soulmates (2021) — comedy

The Sound of Identity — documentary

Sound of Metal — drama

The Sound of Violet (formerly titled Hooked) — drama

The Souvenir Part II — drama

Space Jam: A New Legacy — live-action/amination

Spaceship Earth — documentary

The Sparks Brothers — documentary

Spell (2020) — horror

Spelling the Dream (formerly titled Breaking the Bee) — documentary

Spencer — drama

Spider-Man: No Way Home — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Spiral (2021) — horror

Spirit Untamed — animation

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run — live-action/animation

Spontaneous — sci-fi/horror/comedy

Sputnik — sci-fi/horror

Standing Up, Falling Down — comedy/drama

Stardust (2020) — drama

Starting at Zero — documentary

The State of Texas vs. Melissa — documentary

Stealing School — comedy/drama

Stevenson Lost & Found — documentary

Still Here (2020) — drama

Stillwater (2021) — drama

The Story of Soaps — documentary

The Stranger (Quibi original) — drama

Stray (2021) — documentary

Stray Dolls — drama

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street — documentary

Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash — drama

Studio 666 (2022) — horror/comedy

The Stylist — horror

Subjects of Desire — documentary

Sublime — documentary

Sugar Daddy (2021) — drama

The Suicide Squad — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Summerland — drama

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) — documentary

Sundown (2022) — drama

The Sunlit Night — comedy/drama

Supernova (2021) — drama

The Surrogate — drama

Survive — drama

Swallow — drama

Swan Song (2021) (starring Mahershala Ali) — sci-fi/drama

Swan Song (2021) (starring Udo Kier) — comedy/drama

Sweetheart Deal — documentary

Sweet Thing (2021) — drama

The Swerve — drama

The Swing of Things — comedy

Sylvie’s Love — drama

Synchronic — sci-fi/horror

Take Back — action

Take Me to the River: New Orleans — documentary

Tango Shalom — comedy/drama

Tankhouse — comedy

Tape (2020) — drama

Tar — horror

A Taste of Hunger — drama

A Taste of Sky — documentary

Ted Bundy: American Boogeyman — horror

The Tender Bar — drama

Ten Minutes to Midnight — horror

Terrorizers — drama

Tesla — drama

Then Came You (2020) — comedy

They Call Me Dr. Miami — documentary

The Thing About Harry — comedy

Think Like a Dog — comedy/drama

This Is Personal — documentary

This Is Stand-Up — documentary

This Is the Year — comedy

Those Who Wish Me Dead — drama

A Thousand Cuts (2020) — documentary

A Thread of Deceit: The Hart Family Tragedy — documentary

Through the Night (2020) — documentary

Tick, Tick…Boom! — musical

Tijuana Jackson: Purpose Over Prison — comedy

Time (2020) — documentary

Time Is Up (2021) — drama

The Times of Bill Cunningham — documentary

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made — comedy

The Tinder Swindler — documentary

Titane — horror

The Tobacconist — drama

Together (2021) — comedy/drama

Together Together — comedy/drama

To Kid or Not to Kid — documentary

To Kill the Beast — drama

Tom and Jerry — live-action/animation

Tommaso — drama

Tom of Your Life — sci-fi/comedy

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free: The Making of Wildflowers — documentary

Too Late (2021) — horror/comedy

Top Gun: Maverick — action

The Torch (2022) — documentary

Totally Under Control — documentary

Trafficked: A Parent’s Worst Nightmare — drama

The Tragedy of Macbeth — drama

The Trial of the Chicago 7 — drama

The Trip to Greece — comedy

Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts — documentary

Trolls World Tour — animation

Troop Zero — comedy

The True Adventures of Wolfboy — drama

The Truffle Hunters — documentary

Trust (2021) — drama

The Truth — drama

The Turning (2020) — horror

Turning Red — animation

Twas the Night (2021) — comedy

The Twentieth Century — comedy

Two of Us (2021) — drama

Tyson (2019) — documentary

Tyson’s Run — drama

Ultrasound — sci-fi/drama

Umma (2022) — horror

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent — action/comedy

Unbelievable (premiere episode) — drama

Uncaged (also titled Prey) – horror

Uncharted (2022) — action

Uncorked — drama

Under the Volcano (2021) — documentary

Underwater — sci-fi/horror

Undine (2021) — drama

Unhinged (2020) — action

The Unholy (2021) — horror

The United States vs. Billie Holiday — drama

Un Rescate de Huevitos — animation

The Unthinkable — drama

Until We Meet Again (2022) — drama

Up From the Streets: New Orleans: The City of Music — documentary

Uprooting Addiction — documentary

Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own — documentary

Utama — drama

Val — documentary

Valley Girl (2020) — musical

The Vanished (2020) (formerly titled Hour of Lead)— drama

Vanquish (2021) — action

The Vast of Night — sci-fi/drama

Vengeance Is Mine (2021) — action

Venom: Let There Be Carnage — sci-fi/fantasy/action

The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee — comedy

The Vigil (2021) — horror

The Village in the Woods — horror

Violet (2021) — drama

Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations — documentary

The Virtuoso (2021) — drama

Vivarium — sci-fi/drama

Voyagers — sci-fi/drama

Waiting for the Barbarians — drama

Wander Darkly — drama

The War With Grandpa — comedy

Watcher (2022) — horror

Watson — documentary

The Way Back (2020) — drama

We Are Freestyle Love Supreme — documentary

We Are Little Zombies — comedy/drama

We Are Many — documentary

We Are the Radical Monarchs — documentary

Weathering With You — animation

We Broke Up — comedy

Welcome to Chechnya — documentary

We Need to Do Something — horror

Werewolves Within — horror/comedy

West Side Story (2021) — musical

What’s My Name: Muhammad Ali — documentary

What We Found — drama

What Will Become of Us (2019) — documentary

When the Streetlights Go On — drama

The Whistlers — drama

A White, White Day — drama

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America — documentary

Widow of Silence — drama

Wig — documentary

Wild Indian — drama

Wild Mountain Thyme — drama

Willy’s Wonderland — horror

The Windermere Children — drama

Wine Crush (Vas-y Coupe!) (formerly titled Vas-y Coupe!) — documentary

Witch Hunt (2021) — horror

Wojnarowicz — documentary

Wolf (2021) — drama

The Wolf and the Lion — drama

The Wolf House — animation

The Wolf of Snow Hollow — horror

A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem — documentary

Women (2021) — horror

Wonder Woman 1984 — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation — documentary

Words on Bathroom Walls — drama

Work It — comedy/drama

The World to Come — drama

The Worst Person in the World — comedy/drama

Worst to First: The True Story of Z100 New York — documentary

Wrath of Man — action

The Wretched — horror

A Writer’s Odyssey — fantasy/action

The Wrong Missy — comedy

Wyrmwood: Apocalypse — horror

X (2022) — horror

XY Chelsea — documentary

Yakuza Princess — action

¿Y Cómo Es Él? — comedy

Yellow Rose — drama

You Are Not My Mother — horror

You Cannot Kill David Arquette — documentary

You Don’t Nomi — documentary

You Go to My Head — drama

You Should Have Left — horror

You Won’t Be Alone — horror

Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn — documentary

Zack Snyder’s Justice League — sci-fi/fantasy/action

Zappa — documentary

Zeros and Ones — drama

Zola — comedy/drama

Zombi Child — horror

Review: ‘ Family Camp,’ starring Tommy Woodard, Eddie James, Leigh-Allyn Baker and Gigi Orsillo

May 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Gigi Orsillo, Eddie James, Tommy Woodard and Leigh-Allyn Baker in “Family Camp” (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions)

“Family Camp”

Directed by Brian Cates

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed part of Oklahoma, the comedy film “Family Camp” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two families, who have to share a yurt during a Christian vacation camp, become fierce rivals in the camp’s physical competitions, and then the family patriarchs both get lost in the woods together.

Culture Audience: “Family Camp” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in faith-based comedies that have no creative imagination and a lot of predictability.

Tommy Woodard and Eddie James in “Family Camp” (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions)

“Family Camp” is a dreadfully unfunny ripoff of other comedies about families at a vacation campground. The kid characters are nice, but their annoying parents unfortunately get most of the screen time. “Family Camp” is a faith-based movie, but people looking for entertaining comedic talent in this repetitive and predictable tripe will have their faith and their patience thoroughly tested and then completely obliterated, if there’s any hope that the movie will get better as it goes along. “Family Camp” is formulaic junk that goes from bad to worse.

Directed by Brian Cates (who co-wrote the abysmal “Family Camp” screenplay with Rene Gutteridge), “Family Camp” is essentially a thinly veiled vanity project for the Skit Guys, the comedy duo consisting of longtime friends Tommy Woodard and Eddie James. If “Family Camp” is the first time that people will be introduced to the Skit Guys, then it will put a lot of viewers off from seeing anything else that the Skit Guys have to offer. The movie is supposed to be about a family, but the last third of the movie is pretty much about the feuding characters played by Woodard and James getting lost in the woods together.

“Family Camp” (which is set in Oklahoma) is so simple-minded, at least it’s very easy to follow the plot. Too bad the plot is so stupid, your brain will feel numb from the experience of watching all the corny, awful and boring scenarios that the “Family Camp” filmmakers are trying to pass off as comedy. Most of the movie’s adult characters are whiny, fake or aggressively obnoxious.

The beginning of “Family Camp” shows married couple Tommy Ackerman (played by Woodard) and Grace Ackerman (played by Leigh-Allyn Baker) in church with their two children: Hannah Ackerman (played by Cece Kelly) and Henry Ackerman (played by Jacob M. Wade). Hannah is 16 years old, while Henry is about 11 or 12 years old. Grace is annoyed with Tommy because he showed up late for this church service.

But that’s not the only thing she’s irritated about when it comes to Tommy. Grace thinks that Tommy, who works as a senior investment strategist, is too much of a workaholic who’s been neglecting his family. When the church’s Pastor Dave (played by Mark Christopher Lawrence) announces to the congregation some details about an annual Christian family retreat at a place called Camp Katokwah, Grace tells Tommy that if he wants to make up for all the time that he missed with his family, their family needs to go on this week-long camping trip. (Camp Katokwah is a fictional name. “Family Camp” was actually filmed at Central Oklahoma Camp in Guthrie, Oklahoma.)

Tommy is very resistant to taking this trip, because it’s coming at a time when he’s being considered for a job promotion. Tommy is in a bitter rivalry for the promotion with a cutthroat co-worker named Bramburger (played by Brandon Potter), who doesn’t hesitate to lie, cheat and steal to get what he wants. Tommy and Bramburger have been trying to get the same client, named Mr. Kapoor (played by Mathew Chacko), who is a wealthy businessman.

Tommy thinks that going on this camping trip will put him at a distinct disadvantage to get the promotion. The movie has some time-wasting scenes where Tommy uses his phone to keep track of Bramburger and his sneaky ways of trying to win over Mr. Kapoor. One of Bramburger’s backstabbing tactics includes impersonating Tommy in an in-person interview with Mr. Kapoor. It makes no sense for Bramburger to pretend to be Tommy in this interview, since Bramburger wants to be the one to get the credit for signing Mr. Kapoor as a client. It’s an example of how poorly written the “Family Camp” screenplay is.

Even though Tommy doesn’t want to spend time away from his job, there would be no “Family Camp” movie if Tommy didn’t agree to go on this trip. He does so reluctantly, and he immediately regrets it when the Ackerman family gets to Camp Katokwah and finds out that the camp never got the Ackerman’s last installment of the required payment. All of the cabins on the campground are sold out, so the Ackermans have to share a yurt with another family. It’s a yurt with no WiFi service and no air conditioning.

The other family sharing the yurt also consists of a married couple with two underage children. Eddie Sanders (played by James) and his wife Victoria Sanders (played by Gigi Orsillo) have fraternal twins: son Ed Sanders Jr. (played by Elias Kemuel) and daughter Barb (played by Keslee Grace Blalock), who are both about 11 or 12 years old. Eddie is a loudmouth chiropractor, who always wants people to think he’s the biggest “alpha male,” but he’s really an insecure buffoon with terrible social skills. Victoria is a stereotypical younger “trophy wife” who’s obsessed with the family’s image on social media.

One of the first things that Eddie tells Tommy is that the Eddie and his family are the reigning champs of Camp Katokwah’s physical challenge tournament, where the winning family gets a trophy. The tournament consists of families competing in challenges such as obstacle courses, archery, pie-eating contests with hands tied behind their backs, and body-slamming competitions where people are encased in giant plastic bubbles. As soon as Eddie brags about his champion status, you know that a lot of this movie is going to be about the Ackermans family versus the Sanders family in these challenges.

And sure enough, the movie has several scenes where these two families face off against each other in these challenges. Barb and Victoria become competitive with each other. But their rivalry is nothing compared to how Eddie and Tommy take the competition to a super-personal level, as if they have to prove their manhood, and as of their reputations as husband and fathers depend on winning this superficial trophy. To make matters worse, since the Sanders family and Ackerman family have to share living quarters at this camp, they can’t really get away from each other, so any hard feelings about winning or losing start to fester and boil over.

The movie has some not-very-funny jokes about the Sanders family being strict vegans, and the Ackerman parents ridiculing the Sanders family’s eating habits. And there’s a silly scene in the camp cafeteria where Tommy chokes on his food, but he’s saved when Eddie does the Heimlich maneuver on Tommy. Eddie gets a standing ovation from the cafeteria crowd because of it. The praise just fuels Eddie’s already overblown ego.

Eddie is by far the most repulsive of these four parents. He often grabs people to give them uncomfortable chiropractic crunches without their consent. When Eddie notices that Henry is not very athletic and has a tendency to become afraid, Eddie taunts Tommy over it and says that Henry will probably grow up to be a socially inept hoarder. It’s a cruel thing to say about a harmless kid. Eddie also plays the harmonica when no one really wants to hear him play. And that means he’s a blowhard in more ways than one.

Meanwhile, Victoria and Grace, who seem to be homemakers since they don’t talk about having their own careers, end up confessing to each other some of the problems they’re experiencing in their respective marriages. In other words, it all comes back to the narrative really being about Eddie and Tommy. “Family Camp” makes a half-hearted attempt hinting that Victoria might want some independence from her husband, but the movie never details what she wants to do with her life that would make her more independent.

The kids are sidelined so that the story can mainly be about the egotistical adults in the Ackerman and Sanders families. Hannah has a brief and inconsequential storyline of meeting a teenage guy named Corbin (Clayton Royal Johnson) at the camp and getting a mild crush on him. Corbin charms Hannah by playing acoustic guitar and telling her that she’s the prettiest girl at Camp Katokwa.

Later, when Corbin tries to kiss her, Hannah has to show him she’s “not that kind of girl.” And when he immediately loses interest in her, Hannah gets revenge by pushing Corbin over a bridge walkway and into a lake. It’s not spoiler information, because this push is in the movie’s trailer.

The movie’s Camp Katokwa employees are very forgettable. The leader of Camp Katokwah is named Joel (played by Robert Amaya), who isn’t shown doing much except emcee the camp’s competitions and entertainment. The camp’s chief cook is named—get ready to groan—Cookie (played by Heather Land), who doesn’t do much but stand around in the kitchen and share emcee duties with Joel.

The last third of “Family Camp” reaches putrid levels of stupidity when Eddie and Tommy get lost in the woods together, which means more bickering from these two bozos. There’s no mention of why they didn’t have their cell phones with them when they went into the woods. Henry gets lost in the woods too, but an underage child who goes missing is not as important in this movie as giving a lot of screen time to two men acting like insufferable brats. It gets tiresome very quickly.

And there are two more adult dolts in the woods: loathsome and cretinous reality TV stars who are named Slim (played by Myke Holmes) and Beef (played by Weston Vrooman), whose main claim to fame is being on a TV series showing Beef and Slim looking for the legendary creature Big Foot. Viewers can easily predict what will happen when Slim and Beef encounter Eddie and Tommy, especially when Eddie always seems to find a way to mouth off and get people angry.

In addition to the poorly written screenplay, “Family Camp” has terrible editing and substandard visual effects. One of the worst parts of the movie is a very fake-looking beaver in the woods. This beaver has human-like characteristics, which are supposed to make the beaver look cute and cuddly, but it just looks creepy and phony.

There’s also a scene where idiotic Eddie rips a slab of honeycomb from a tree and gets stung all over his face by a swarm of bees that were on the honeycomb. Tommy gives Eddie an emergency injection of epinephrine that Eddie just happens to have with him. Just a few minutes after this injection, Eddie’s bee stings have magically and unrealistically disappeared, and the bee stings are never mentioned again in the movie.

No one is expecting a movie like “Family Camp” to be Oscar-caliber, but a movie like this doesn’t have to constantly insult viewers’ intelligence. And even if a comedy has a mindless plot and mediocre acting, it should at least have some central characters that people will care about in a way to maintain viewer interest. “Family Camp” made the colossal mistake of having repugnant boor Eddie as the focus of the terrible jokes. He’s worse than the bees that stung him because viewers are stuck with him for the entire movie, which is polluted by the stink of lazy and low-quality filmmaking.

Roadside Attractions, K-LOVE Films and Provident Films released “Family Camp” on May 13, 2022. Lionsgate Home Entertainment will release “Family Camp” on digital and VOD on June 28, 2022.

Review: ‘The Sound of Violet,’ starring Cason Thomas, Cora Cleary, Jan D’Arcy, Kaelon Christopher and Michael E. Bell

May 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Cora Cleary and Cason Thomas in “The Sound of Violet” (Photo courtesy of Atlas Distribution)

“The Sound of Violet”

Directed by Allen Wolf

Culture Representation: Taking place in Seattle, the dramatic film “The Sound of Violet” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A young autistic man, who lives with his widowed grandmother, falls in love with a prostitute, much to the disapproval of his grandmother and his older brother.

Culture Audience: “The Sound of Violet” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in schmaltzy movies that preach the sexist belief that women sex workers need to be saved by religious men.

Michael E. Bell and Cora Cleary in “The Sound of Violet” (Photo courtesy of Atlas Distribution)

Sappy and preachy to a fault, the melodrama “The Sound of Violet” pushes the sexist message that a woman who’s a sex worker can’t be happy unless she’s rescued by a man with enough money to take care of her. It’s the type of fantasy that was peddled in the 1990 hit film “Pretty Woman,” but “The Sound of Violet” puts a religious spin on it with a cringeworthy story and embarrassing acting. In “Pretty Woman,” the male “rescuer” was a ruthless businessman who finds his sensitive and loving side when he gets involved with the prostitute who’s the movie’s title character. In “The Sound of Violet,” the male “rescuer” is a mild-mannered Christian nerd, who lives in a high-rise apartment building with his religious grandmother and is the direct heir to his grandmother’s upper-middle-class financial assets.

Written and directed by Allen Wolf, “The Sound of Violet” is Wolf’s feature-film directorial debut and is based on Wolf’s 2021 novel of the same name. The movie was originally titled “Hooked” and had this tagline: “He didn’t get women until he got Hooked.” Based on the plot of this woefully amateurish movie, “Hooked” is a play on words, essentially saying that a prostitute is going to come along and trap this socially awkward man into falling in love with her.

“The Sound of Violet” (which takes place in Seattle) states the intentions of the unlucky-in-love sap from the beginning: He wants to find a “nice girl” to marry. His name is Shawn (played by Cason Thomas), who is in his early-to-mid-20s. Shawn happens to be autistic, and he’s never had a serious girlfriend. His strict grandmother Ruth (played by Jan D’Arcy) has deliberately kept him sheltered. Shawn also has the type of autism where he dislikes it when people touch him.

Thomas (who makes his feature-film debut in “The Sound of Violet”) is not autistic in real life, but his main autism consultant for the movie was a “Sound of Violet” camera operator who happens to be autistic, according to a statement on the movie’s official website. Thomas’ portrayal of autism is to act naïve for the majority of his screen time in “The Sound of Violet.” Expect to see a lot of scenes of a wide-eyed Shawn blinking nervously or looking shocked when he finds out some of life’s harsh realities.

Even though Shawn is very inexperienced when it comes to dating, he works as a computer programmer for a company that operates a dating app/website. The company has a lenient policy of letting its employees use the company’s dating service for their personal lives. Shawn has been using the app to find women to date. And the results have been that Shawn is getting a series of rejections.

“The Sound of Violet” opens with a scene showing one of these rejections. Shawn is on a date with a woman who’s about the same age. He unwittingly insults her by telling her that he’s disappointed that she looks different from her profile picture. “Your profile picture isn’t very up-to-date,” he adds. She doesn’t seem to mind this criticism, because she tries to hold his hand, but Shawn pulls away and says, “I’m sorry.” Shawn’s discomfort is enough to put her off, so that when Shawn’s not looking, she literally runs away from him to end the date.

After this rejection, a self-pitying Shawn complains to his grandmother Ruth: “I’m never getting married.” Ruth quips, “Married? We just need you to get a second date.” Ruth sometimes has sassy lines of dialogue which bring some comic relief to this otherwise heavy-handed melodrama. And why is Shawn in such a rush to get married? He tells his grandmother: “I need to find someone before you die.”

It might not have been intentionally insensitive, but “The Sound of Violet” has a tacky way of making Shawn the butt of several jokes because of his autism. He often says and does things that are tactless or too trusting, which put him in humiliating situations, many of which are intended to make audiences laugh at Shawn. And at other times, the movie goes overboard to make viewers pity Shawn. Either way, “The Sound of Violet” has a questionable depiction of an autistic person.

Not long after experiencing his latest dating embarrassment, Shawn is at his job (where he works in a bland cubicle), when his conceited and arrogant boss Jake (played by Tyler Roy Roberts) announces that the company has changed its policy so that employees can no longer use the company’s app for dating. Jake makes a point of telling Shawn that one of the main reasons for this policy change is because the company has been getting some complaints from the women who went on dates with Shawn. Jake, who owns the company, doesn’t particularly like Shawn, and he doesn’t want Shawn at an upcoming company party that will be held at a nightclub.

Shawn is generally liked by his co-workers, who encourage him to go to the party anyway. One of the male co-workers attempts to help Shawn by giving him tips and advice on how to approach women whom Shawn might want to date. He tries to get Shawn to practice some pickup lines, but even this co-worker thinks Shawn could be a lost cause. He eventually tells Shawn, “All women might be out of your league.”

The theme of the party is “Pimps and Hos,” which says a lot about what kind of boss Jake is. Viewers later find out that Jake hired female sex workers to be at the party, but most of the company employees don’t know it. One of these sex workers is named Violet (played by Cora Cleary), who is about the same age as Shawn or maybe slightly older. She’s definitely got a lot more life experience than Shawn, who sees her at the party and is immediately attracted to her.

Shawn and Violet have an awkward first conversation, where he ends up asking her on a dinner date to take place in his home. Violet tells him, “You’re at a Pimps and Hos party. You’re talking to a ho.” Violet tells Shawn that she charges $300 an hour to do “everything.” Shawn thinks that Violet is joking about being a prostitute. Violet agrees to his request that she come over to his place for their date, which he says should last from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

When Violet arrives at the apartment, Shawn quickly introduces her to his grandmother Ruth. To Shawn, it’s an innocent introduction. To Violet, it looks like she might have been hired to have a kinky threesome. She immediately tells Shawn: “No touching until I say so.” Ruth says to Violet and Shawn: “I’ll be in my bedroom, so you two can get started.” Meanwhile, Violet has a look of dread on her face that seems to say, “What have I gotten myself into?”

The double entendre misunderstandings continue in what’s supposed to be a comedic scene. Violet asks Shawn: “Do you want the girlfriend experience?” Shawn smiles and replies, “Only if it will lead to more.” There are some muffins on the dining table. Violet licks one of the muffins in a sexually suggestive manner. Shawn tells her, “You really like those muffins.”

Here’s what so phony and dumb about this “first date” scene: You don’t have to be a sex worker to know that prostitutes expect payment up front before they continue with a “date.” The issue of payment doesn’t come up in Violet and Shawn’s “date” until much later than what would be realistic. Even when Violet mentions to Shawn how much she expects him to pay for the date, he’s still confused and doesn’t understand that she’s a sex worker.

But “The Sound of Violet” doesn’t care about a lot of realistic details. It’s mainly about preaching that Violet is a “sinner” who needs to be saved by a “saintly” man. Violet eventually figures out that Shawn doesn’t have the cash or credit card that she was expecting, and he still has no idea that she’s a sex worker, so she cuts the date short. However, Violet is mildly amused and entertained by Shawn’s obvious infatuation with her, so she lets him tag along with her for their next “date.”

On this next “date,” Violet lies to Shawn and says that she’s an actress who needs to go on some auditions that day. She has a car driver, who takes Violet and Shawn around town on these “auditions.” Violet tells Shawn to wait in the car while she goes on these “auditions,” which all take place in private homes. Shawn is a little curious about why these auditions are in homes, not offices, but Violet tells him that it’s not unusual to have acting auditions in people’s homes. Of course, viewers know the real reason why Violet is going to these homes.

During this ride-along “date,” Violet gets a call from her controlling and abusive pimp Anton (played by Michael E. Bell), who keeps track of her every move because he has a tracker app on Violet’s phone. Violet lies to Shawn and says that Anton is her “manager.” Much of “The Sound of Violet” is about Violet continuing to lie to Shawn about what she does to make money. Later in the movie, it should come as no surprise when it’s revealed that Violet isn’t her real name.

Many faith-based movies that are about women or girls involved in prostitution have a problematic and racist pattern of putting African American men in the roles of pimps. “The Sound of Violet” is one of those movies, which refuse to acknowledge that most of the pimps in America are actually white. Anton later does something heinous (he sets Violet up to be drugged and raped) that results in Anton getting sexually explicit photos of Violet. Anton threatens to send the photos to Violet’s family members, who have no idea that Violet is a sex worker. It’s essentially Anton blackmailing Violet to continue working for him.

Anton has two other female sex workers under his control named Aleesha (played by Embeba Hagos) and Nadia (played by Esha Moore), who are portrayed as loyal friends to Violet but also as money-hungry thieves. Nadia also has a drug habit. Aleesha and Nadia eventually meet Shawn and Ruth in a very fake-looking and clumsily staged scene. It’s the movie’s way of saying, “Why save just one hooker when you can save three?”

Violet and Shawn start seeing each other on a regular basis, but how much longer can Violet keep up her charade? Ruth doesn’t approve of the relationship because she thinks Violet isn’t good enough for Shawn. Shawn’s protective older brother Colin (played by Kaelon Christopher), who works as a waiter at a local diner, doesn’t trust Violet either. Ruth and Colin and rightfully suspect that Violet isn’t being entirely truthful about who she is. Colin even has a private meeting with Violet to tell her to stop dating Shawn. She refuses.

Even though Violet and Shawn seem to be very different from each other, they both have something in common: dysfunctional family members who caused them trauma. Violet and Shawn tell each other about it as they get to know each other better. Shawn says that his parents split up when he was young, and his father was an alcoholic. Shawn’s mother, for unnamed reasons, was not able to take care of Shawn and Colin, so Shawn’s grandmother raised the two brothers. Violet says that her father abandoned her, and she was sexually abused by her father’s brother.

But wait, there’s more: Shawn has synesthesia, a sensory condition, where he mixes up colors with sounds. And so, throughout the movie, there are cheesy visual and audio effects of Shawn experiencing sounds and seeing things glow when he looks at people who emotionally affect him, such as Violet. And now you know why this movie is called “The Sound of Violet.” Speaking of human senses, let’s not forget that Shawn doesn’t like to be touched, which is a challenge/frustration for Violet, who starts to grow fond of Shawn and wants to connect with him sexually.

“The Sound of Violet” gets into some more badly contrived drama about Shawn wanting to marry Violet, and a disgusted Ruth thinking that Violet is a gold digger who’s after Shawn’s inheritance. All might be forgiven if Violet gives up her “sinful” lifestyle and starts going to church with Shawn. Unfortunately, “The Sound of Violet” does almost nothing to adequately address the realities that sex workers need more than a few church services and a sweet-natured guy who’ll pay their expenses to heal from any trauma they experienced.

The movie also has a treacly and somewhat unnecessary subplot about Ruth finding love too. Her love interest is an elderly man named Douglas (played by Malcolm J. West), who works as a doorman in the building where Ruth and Shawn live. Douglas has apparently had a crush on Ruth for quite some time, but she’s still grieving over the death of her husband, and she doesn’t seem ready to start dating again. Ruth and Douglas attend the same church, so you know where this is going, of course.

The cast members’ overall acting in “The Sound of Violet” is not completely terrible, but it’s often wooden and not very convincing. This is a movie that irresponsibly pushes the story of an “against all odds” romance by oversimplifying complex issues such as autism and sex trafficking. The characters in the movie aren’t presented as well-rounded people but as stereotypes. And when it comes right down to it, “The Sound of Violet” is completely tone-deaf.

Atlas Distribution released “The Sound of Violet” in select U.S. cinemas on April 29, 2022.

Review: ‘Pleasure’ (2021), starring Sofia Kappel

May 27, 2022

by Carla Hay

Sofia Kappel and Xander Corvus in “Pleasure” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

“Pleasure” (2021)

Directed by Ninja Thyberg

Some language in Swedish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Los Angeles area, the dramatic film “Pleasure” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A Swedish immigrant in her early 20s moves to Los Angeles to become a porn star, and she finds out how far she’s willing to go to fulfill that goal.

Culture Audience: “Pleasure” will appeal primarily to viewers who are interested in very adult-oriented and voyeuristic-styled stories about people obsessed with pursuing fame and fortune.

Sofia Kappel and Zelda Morrison (also known as Revika Reustle) in “Pleasure” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

“Pleasure” takes a raw and realistic look at what women who want to be porn stars have to do to “make it” in adult entertainment. The movie’s ironic title comes from showing that the business of pleasure comes at a cost of emotional pain to the performers. Needless to say, “Pleasure” is not a movie for people who are easily offended by explicit sexual content or who are too young for this subject matter. Writer/director Ninja Thyberg makes a bold and uncompromising feature-film debut with “Pleasure,” which doesn’t sugarcoat the damage (sometimes self-inflicted) caused by being exploited in the porn industry.

Thyberg (who co-wrote the “Pleasure” screenplay with Peter Modestij) is Swedish, and so is the protagonist of “Pleasure”: a woman in her early 20s whose porn name is Bella Cherry (played by Sofia Kappel), but her real name is Linnéa. Only a few people in the story know Bella’s real name. She wants everyone in her porn life to call her Bella, because she is fixated on reinventing herself as a porn star. “Pleasure,” which takes place over the course of less than six months, is about Bella’s attempts to accomplish that goal.

Viewers will find out very little about Bella’s life before she moved to Los Angeles. The fact that Thyberg and Bella are both Swedish is an interesting creative choice, because it makes Bella’s story not only a story about an aspiring porn actress but also an immigrant story. In either case, Bella is an outsider who strives to be accepted into a culture where people have been in the culture a lot longer than she has. Kappel, who is also Swedish, makes a memorable feature-film debut in her role as Bella. Kappel’s performance is what keeps “Pleasure” interesting because of how authentically she portrays all the emotions that Bella goes through in the movie.

The movie opens with Bella being questioned at an airport customs area in the United States, where she is asked if she’s visiting for business or pleasure. Based on the title of this movie, it’s easy to predict Bella’s answer. Viewers later find out that Bella has lied to her mother about why she’s going to Los Angeles. She’s told her mother that her trip is because she got an internship at a sponsoring company whose industry is not mentioned in the movie. If Bella has any other family members, then they’re not mentioned in the movie either.

Bella’s mother has no idea that Bella actually financed the trip herself with one purpose in mind: to become a porn star and to get a work visa so that she can stay in America. Bella is living in a non-descript, somewhat shabby place that’s called a house for models, but the four or five female models who live there are really actresses in adult entertainment. Most are in their 20s, but a few are over the age of 30.

One of these housemates is Joy (played by Zelda Morrison, also known Revika Reustle), who is in her 20s. Joy becomes Bella’s closest friend in Los Angeles. At one point, Joy and Bella tell each other their real first names and a little bit more of their backgrounds. Joy’s real name is Katie, and she’s originally from Florida.

Joy also cheerfully describes herself this way: “I do everything. I’m a whore.” Very little is revealed about Joy’s background, except she mentions that most people in her life have disappointed her or betrayed her. Joy is looking for a true friend in Bella, who likes Joy too, but Bella is more guarded about how close she wants to be to anyone else in the house.

Another woman in the house is a longtime porn actress named Ashley (played by Dana DeArmond), who is in her late 30s or early 40s. Ashley is very aware that she’s in an age group where women become less employable in porn, so she has to start thinking about other ways to make money. On the night of Ashley’s birthday, she and the other women in the house celebrate by getting drunk, smoking some marijuana, and heading out to a private party attended by other people in the adult entertainment industry.

“Pleasure” skips over a lot of details about what happened to Bella from the time that she arrived at the airport in Los Angeles to the time she does her first sex scene in a porn movie. It’s never shown how Bella ended up living in the house, which is occupied by women (including Bella), who all have the same agent. His name is Mike (played by Jason Toler), who actually is not a predator but who is someone who treats his clients with a decent amount of respect. However, as Bella later finds out, Mike has no use for clients who are hopelessly naïve about the type of work required in porn. Mike also doesn’t like it when people make promises that they can’t keep.

Bella’s first sex scene in a porn movie (which is filmed at a house) shows how she has a mixture of real and false confidence in how she wants to do this work. Before she starts filming the scene, she does a required video interview with a “jack of all trades” porn worker named Bear (played by Chris Cock), who acts as a camera operator, human resources supervisor and a porn actor—sometimes all on the same day. Bear is an easygoing person who has a secret that Bella finds out later in the movie. Bear’s secret isn’t shocking, but it’s surprising to Bella.

In the video interview, which is done for legal reasons, Bella has to show proof that she’s at least 18 years old by showing her ID. She says she was born on April 27, 1999, and she holds that day’s newspaper up to prove the date that she made this video. The video interview also includes Bella consenting to whatever she ends up doing on camera. In addition, she has to sign release forms and other legal paperwork related to making this porn movie. She does all of these procedures with self-assurance and no hesitation.

Even though Bella claims that her biggest goal in life is to be a porn star, she gets nervous and scared before her first sex scene, where she will be performing different sex acts with a flabby man who appears to be in his mid-to-late 40s. It’s one of many examples of “Pleasure” showing the double standard in the physical appearances of men and women performers who get hired to do porn movies. Unless the porn movie is about a specific fetish for big women, the women in professional porn movies are rarely allowed to be pudgy, overweight or over the age of 50, while men are allowed to be a variety of ages and body types.

Sensing her hesitation, the director tells Bella that she has “stage fright.” Bella says, “I feel so stupid.” The director than tells her, “You just overcome it and push past it. But no pressure.” He then adds to convince her to do the scene: “I need you to be a little shy,” since the scene is about a virginal young woman being “seduced” by an older man.

After Bella finishes her scenes in the movie, she proudly takes photos of herself with semen all over her face and posts the photos on her social media, to announce to the world that she is now officially a porn actress. Later, Bella relaxes near the house swimming pool with Bear and the director. She asks the director for advice on how to become a successful porn star. He tells her, “Just look like you’re enjoying yourself.”

Later, when Bear gives her a car ride, he asks her why she moved all the way from Sweden to become a porn star. Bella replies: “I’m out here because I just want to fuck. And Swedes, they just suck. They’re boring. They enjoy feeling sorry for themselves.”

Despite this display of arrogance, Bella still shows how young and naïve she is when she expresses surprise after Bear (who is African American) tells her that interracial sex scenes in porn are considered more taboo and more “deviant” than almost any other sex acts. When Bella tells Bear that this attitude sounds racist, he bluntly tells her that it is, but it’s reality. Bella says that if the opportunity came up, she wouldn’t mind doing a sex scene with Bear, who tells her that he will be there for her if she ever needs advice or help.

In an early scene in the movie, Bella also says that she’s open to any sex with a man or a woman on camera, except for anal sex. It’s another an example of how clueless Bella is if she thinks she can become a major porn star without doing anal sex on camera. It’s not long before she finds out that she’ll have willingly to change her “no anal sex on camera” rule if she wants to be a porn star.

The most sought-after porn agent in Los Angeles County is a sleazy-looking, middle-aged schlump named Mark Spiegler, playing a version of himself. “Pleasure” has several cast members who are in the adult entertainment industry in real life, including Mick Blue, Xander Corvus, Chanel Preston, Small Hands, Abella Danger and Ryan Mclane. Some are playing versions of themselves with the same names, while others are playing fictional characters with different names. It’s repeated several times in “Pleasure” that the actresses who work for Mark, who are often called Mark Spiegler Girls, are among the highest-paid in porn, because they are willing to do extreme sex acts on camera.

It should come as no surprise that Bella and Joy want Mark to be their agent. On the night of Ashley’s birthday, the women housemates head to a private party at a mansion, where they look on enviously outside the party, as Mark and his entourage are treated like porn royalty. Bella sees Bear outside as he’s about to go inside the mansion. Bella approaches Bear with a hug and a smile, and she uses him to gain admission, while leaving her housemates outside to figure out on their own how to get into the party. It’s the first sign that Bella will place her own needs above loyalty to any of her friends.

The other housemates end up getting access to the party, which has a special roped-off section reserved just for Mark and his entourage. Once inside the party, Joy and Bella try to figure out a way to get access to Mark. But in the meantime, Joy (who’s very drunk) gets somewhat giddy and star-struck when she sees a good-looking porn star named Caesar (played by Lance Hart), whom she finds very attractive.

Not long after eying Caesar from afar, Joy goes up to Caesar (who is talking in a group of people), and tries to flirt with him, but he calls her “trashy” and essentially dismisses her. An insulted Joy yells at Caesar and then pushes Caesar into a nearby pool. Joy, Bella and the rest of the housemates are kicked out of the party. There are repercussions to this incident that are shown later in the movie.

Joy has a quick temper, but she also has a very generous side, such as being willing to help the less-experienced Bella in many aspects of adult entertainment, including how to pose in photo shoots. At one such photo shoot, Joy and Bella meet a porn model/actress named Ava (played by Evelyn Claire), who is as standoffish as she is pretty. Ava has this snooty response when Joy tries to strike up a friendly conversation with her: “I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to work.” Ava also plays a big role in a major turning point in Bella’s journey in the porn industry.

People often hear that in the porn industry, female entertainers are generally paid more than male entertainers. But what “Pleasure” shows in no uncertain terms is that women in porn are degraded on camera much more than men in porn. Men are also usually the people in control of directing and owning the porn content. And the business owners (who are almost always men) of porn are really the ones who profit the most from porn. In other words, as much as some women can claim that doing porn is “empowering” for women, the reality is that porn is mainly controlled and dominated by men, who have most of the power in porn.

During the course of Bella’s experiences in porn, almost all the directors, crew members and photographers who tell her what to do are men. If there are any female crew members on the movie set or photo shoot, they have stereotypical non-supervisor roles of doing hair and makeup. On the rare occasion that Bella works with a female director (Aiden Starr, playing a version of herself), “Pleasure” shows how differently Bella is treated on a porn movie directed by a woman. The process is more collaborative, and more care is taken to check in on Bella’s safety and what she’s willing or not willing to do on camera.

Most of all, “Pleasure” isn’t so much about the sex acts that are done in the movie. It’s about how blind ambition can chip away at someone’s self-worth and soul in an all-consuming quest for fame. At one point, Bella becomes so desperate, she offers to do porn for free.

There are moments in the movie when Bella trusts her instincts and knows that she’s doing things that she doesn’t really want to do in these porn movies, but she’s made to feel guilty by people telling her in various ways that if she hesitates, she’s being “unprofessional” and “immature” and “not ready” to be a porn star. And if she hesitates, she’s also put on a guilt trip (usually by the male director) about how her hesitation can cost everyone money on this movie production. Bella begins to experience more self-doubt, which further fuels any insecurities she already had.

At the same time, “Pleasure” doesn’t let Bella off the hook either, because she often brags to people that she’ll do whatever it takes to become a porn star. But when she’s expected to do “whatever it takes,” she sometimes backtracks. And that should be her right. However, “Pleasure” shows (without passing judgment) that a lot of people who think they can handle doing porn (and the repercussions that come with it) really are not emotionally equipped to handle it at all. Bella changes her mind about a lot of her “boundaries,” which is realistic for anyone who wants to become a porn star as badly as she does.

People who pay attention and notice if a movie has a “male gaze” or “female gaze” will notice that “Pleasure” can be considered a “female gaze” film. Full-frontal female nudity in “Pleasure” is rarely shown in the sex scenes, but male full-frontal nudity is shown more often. Female genitals are shown in the context of things other than sex, such as when Bella is shaving her vagina. The movie’s sex scenes show suggestions of what’s happening, but not actual penetration.

And although the scenes involving degradation and exploitation will be very difficult to watch for many viewers, “Pleasure” ultimately shows that in every situation, Bella does have the option to stop. This isn’t rape, forced prostitution or sex trafficking, but “Pleasure” shows how dangerously close the porn industry comes to taking away consent when pressuring people into doing things they feel hesitant about doing.

As realistic as “Pleasure” is in many aspects, the movie is a not a comprehensively accurate movie in how it depicts the porn industry. For example, issues regarding sexually transmitted diseases and rampant drug/alcohol abuse are barely mentioned or not mentioned at all. In real life, porn performers who do sex acts with people on camera are quick to tell people that they regularly get tested for STDs before being allowed to work in professional porn jobs. None of this STD testing is shown or mentioned in “Pleasure.” And neither is the porn occupational hazard of addictions to drugs and alcohol.

Bella is also a blank slate when it comes to her motivations in becoming a porn star. The only slight insight that the movie shows is when an emotionally bruised Bella has a phone conversation with her mother. In this conversation, Bella seems to want to go back to Sweden, without telling her mother the real reason why. Bella tries to blame it on the people in Los Angeles, but her mother comments that Bella needs to face whatever problems she’s having in Los Angeles, because there will be difficult people no matter where she lives. This conversation reveals that Bella thought she’d be happier if she reinvented herself in another country, but she’s finding out that she can’t find happiness in superficial ways if she’s still unhappy within herself.

“Pleasure” is not going to be enjoyed by people who expect morality preaching about porn. Some viewers might also be disappointed if they expect “Pleasure” to have a very clear and definable ending. Bella’s ambivalence and contradictions about how far she’s willing to go are very realistic of people who do porn but who do not have a strong sense of who they really are. Porn might be an extremely risky way to find fame, but “Pleasure” shows how a fame-chasing mindset in any profession can lead to cutthroat acts of exploitation and degradation.

Neon released “Pleasure” in select U.S. cinemas on May 13, 2022. The movie was released in Sweden in 2021.

Review: ‘Firebird’ (2021), starring Tom Prior, Oleg Zagorodnii and Diana Pozharskaya

May 27, 2022

by Carla Hay

Tom Prior and Oleg Zagorodnii in “Firebird” (Photo by Herrki-Erich Merila/Roadside Attractions/The Factory)

“Firebird” (2021)

Directed by Peeter Rebane

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in Estonia and Russia, from 1977 to 1983, the dramatic film “Firebird” (which is inspired by a true story) features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two men, who begin a secret love affair while they are in the Estonian military together, continue their love affair even after one of the men marries a woman and has a child with her. 

Culture Audience: “Firebird” will appeal primarily to people interested in stories about closeted gay people, but the movie is frequently dull and has questionable acting.

Tom Prior and Oleg Zagorodnii in “Firebird” (Photo by Herrki-Erich Merila/Roadside Attractions/The Factory)

Regardless of the sexualities of the characters in the drama “Firebird,” this monotonous film glorifies a relationship as romantic, when it’s really a doomed love affair where one person in the relationship is very selfish and manipulative. Viewers with common sense can easily see that the love triangle depicted in “Firebird” is not true love. It’s a story about someone taking advantage of two vulnerable people who deserved a better love partner. It doesn’t help that some of the acting in “Firebird” is very stilted and awkward, which makes a lot of the movie very emotionally unconvincing.

Inspired by real events, “Firebird” was directed by Peeter Rebane, who co-wrote the “Firebird” screenplay with “Firebird” star Tom Prior. The movie takes place from 1977 to 1983, in Estonia and Russia, with homophobia and the military ban on homosexuality serving as the reasons why the two men in the love triangle have to keep their affair a secret. “Firebird” isn’t the first movie to cover this topic, but “Firebird” unfortunately and mistakenly tries to make the liar and cheater in the relationship look like some kind of tragic hero.

In the beginning of the “Firebird,” it’s 1977. Sergey Serebrennikov (played by Prior) is a military private in his mid-20s at Haapsalu Air Force Base in Soviet Union-occupied Estonia. Sergey does well in the military, but his real passion is in creative arts. He’s an enthusiastic photographer, and what he really wants to do with his life is become an actor. Sergey’s closest friends at the Air Force Base are Siderov Volodja (played by Jake Henderson) and Luisa (played by Diana Pozharskaya), who are about the same age as Sergey.

Siderov is a slightly rebellious type who has a knack for getting away with some mischief. The movie’s opening scene shows Sergey, Siderov and Luisa taking a swim in a lake at night when they’re supposed to be in their sleeping quarters on the Air Force Base. Two security officers who are patrolling the area hear the commotion in the lake, and one of the officers shines a flashlight and threatens to shoot. While Sergey and Luisa hide, Siderov comes out from the shadows and identifies himself.

One of the security officers says to Siderov, “You again?” Ultimately, the security officers do nothing and walk away after telling Siderov to go back to the base, although one of the officers mutters to his co-worker, “Next time, I’ll shoot him.” Siderov’s confidence in being able to break the rules is in marked contrast to Sergey, who is terrified of getting himself and other people into trouble. It’s one of the reasons why Sergey stays too long in an on-again/off-again relationship with the deeply closeted man who ends up taking more than he gives in their relationship.

Sergey never explicitly states what his own sexuality is in the entire story. In the beginning of the movie, he has a massive crush on Luisa. Sergey gets secretly upset when Luisa dates other men. Luisa has firmly put Sergey in the “friend zone,” although sometimes she flirts with Sergey too. Siderov tries to give Sergey confidence-boosting talks on how he can win over Luisa, but Sergey seems to know that Luisa will see Sergey as nothing more than a close friend.

One day, a good-looking fighter pilot named Roman Matvejev (played by Oleg Zagorodnii), who’s in his late 20s or early 30s, arrives at the Air Force Base. The first time that Sergey sees him, Sergey is outside with his constant companions Luisa and Siderov while trying to take a “selfie” group photo of the three of them. Roman walks up to the trio and offers to take a picture of the three pals instead. Roman looks at Sergey in a way that suggests that he might want more do more to Sergey than take a picture of him.

Roman has been recruited to the Air Force Base because it will be his duty to prevent a B-52 bomber with a thermonuclear device from slipping through an air corridor to Leningrad. Roman’s immediate supervisor is Major Zverev (played by Margus Prangel), who is every worst stereotype of a homophobe. Major Zverev reports to Colonel Kuznetsov (played by Nicholas Woodeson), a tough but fair-minded supervisor, who believes in Roman’s talent and seems to want to be Roman’s mentor.

Because of Sergey’s interest in photography, he encounters Roman on some occasions when Sergey is developing photos in the photo darkroom on the Air Force Base. During their conversations, an unspoken attraction grows between Roman and Sergey. Roman, who is older and more experienced, makes the first move when he and Sergey kiss each other for the first time. It isn’t long before Roman and Sergey are sneaking off together for sexual trysts, including a hookup in the same lake where Sergey and Luisa were almost caught with Siderov.

At some point, Sergey decides that he would be happier being an actor than a military person, so his request to be discharged is granted. Sergey, who grew up on a farm, plans to go to Moscow to pursue his dream of being an actor. Roman and Sergey both share an interest in live theater, and they even go see a theater show together on a date. During a secret rendezvous, Sergey half-jokingly tells Roman that they should run away to Moscow together. Considering that Roman wants to stay employed by the military for as long as possible, the idea of Roman and Sergey living in bliss together for the rest of their lives is a pipe dream at best.

Someone at the Air Force Base must have seen Roman and Sergey together, because Major Zverev gets an anonymous complaint that Roman is having a same-sex affair, which is grounds for a dishonorable discharge and a prison sentence. Roman is ambitious and want to rise through the military ranks, so his response to the accusation is entirely expected: He denies everything.

Major Zverev doesn’t really believe Roman, but Colonel Kuznetsov is willing to give Roman the benefit of the doubt, especially since the complaint was anonymous, and the complaint did not have any proof. “Firebird” has a few tension-filled scenes where a suspicious Major Zverev tries to find proof that Roman is having a sexual relationship with a man. Meanwhile, Roman becomes paranoid and tells Sergey to stop talking to him in public. Sergey, who is about to leave the military in the near future, is crushed by this rejection.

It sets the tone for their relationship though. Every time Roman thinks that he will be “outed,” he distances himself from Sergey, who gets emotionally hurt, but then is willing to take Roman back when Roman is ready to resume their affair. Sergey is in love with Roman and wants to do whatever it takes to please him. And here’s the thing that makes Roman an even more despicable lout: Roman decides he’s going to marry Luisa, knowing that Sergey was kind of in love Luisa too, although Sergey’s romantic feelings for Luisa are not as strong as how Sergey feels about Roman.

Luisa, who has fallen deeply in love with Roman, has no idea that Sergey and Roman have been secretly hooking up with each other. Roman is not in love with Luisa. He’s only marrying her so that he can stop any speculation that he might be gay, and because he knows that having an image of being a heterosexual married man can benefit his career. Meanwhile, an emotionally tortured Sergey has to pretend to be happy for Luisa and Roman getting married, so that Luisa won’t get suspicious. Sergey even attends the wedding. Roman and Luisa eventually have a son together.

“Firebird” is an often-dreary slog of this very dysfunctional love triangle that has Roman calling all of the shots. Even after Sergey relocates to Moscow and tries to move on with his life without Roman, the chronically deceitful Roman finds a way back into Sergey’s life. In real life, a lot of people fall in love with people who are no good for them. It doesn’t mean that a movie has to make this type of toxic relationship look like true love. It isn’t true love. It’s a train wreck waiting to happen.

Making matters worse for “Firebird,” the movie is very disjointed in how it tells this story. In the first third of the movie, there’s too much time spent on Sergey and his fellow conscripts going through boot camp-styled harassment, led by a homophobic and sadistic bully named Sergeant Janis (played by Markus Luik), who is physically and verbally abusive. Sergeant Janis particularly likes to target underlings whom he likes to accuse of being gay, if they can’t do what he tells them to do.

Most of the supporting cast members are adequate in their roles. The credibility problem is with the two “Firebird” lead actors. In the role of Sergey, Prior (who is British in real life) is never completely believable as someone from Eastern Europe, since his Eastern European accent is shaky at best. Meanwhile, as Roman, Zagorodnii gives the worst performance in the “Firebird” cast. Zagorodnii’s wooden acting drags down the film, and it makes viewers speculate that he must have been cast in this role mainly for his good looks.

And really, after a while, it’s hard to see what Sergey sees in Roman besides those good looks. Sergey is a loving and unselfish partner, but Roman is not treating Sergey as the great love of his life who deserves to be respected. Roman is treating Sergey like a “side piece” that Roman wants when it’s convenient for Roman. Viewers with enough life experience can see this mismatched relationship for what it is. These viewers won’t buy the “Sergey and Roman are soul mates” fantasy that “Firebird” is desperately trying to sell.

Roadside Attractions released “Firebird” in select U.S. cinemas on April 29, 2022. The movie is set for release on Blu-ray and DVD on June 3, 2022. “Firebird” was released in Estonia in 2021.

Review: ‘Wyrmwood: Apocalypse,’ starring Luke McKenzie, Bianca Bradey, Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Tasia Zalar, Jay Gallagher and Nicholas Boshier

May 25, 2022

by Carla Hay

Bianca Bradey and Luke McKenzie (center) in “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” (Photo by Thom Davies/XYZ Films)

“Wyrmwood: Apocalpyse”

Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner

Culture Representation: Taking place in Australia, the horror film “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” features a cast of predominantly white characters (with a few Aborigines) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A mercenary soldier has his loyalties tested during a battle of humans against zombies in an apocalypse. 

Culture Audience: “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of zombie movies but don’t care if the story is good and just want to see a lot of bloody violence.

Tasia Zalar and Shantae Barnes-Cowan in “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” (Photo by Emma Bjorndahl/XYZ Films)

With a forgettable story and even more forgettable characters, the zombie flick “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is just an idiotic and incoherent mush of violence that quickly becomes boring. No one is expecting a zombie movie to be high art, but an entertaining zombie should at least give viewers some suspense over what’s going to happen in the story. There are absolutely no surprises in “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse,” which is just an obnoxious and very predictable mess.

Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner (who co-wrote the “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” screenplay with his brother Tristan Roache-Turner), “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is the sequel to 2015’s “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead,” with both movies taking place in Australia during an apocalypse. (How unoriginal for a zombie movie.) The screenwriting is so lazy, it’s essentially the same story as the first movie: A woman, who has become human mutant zombie, has to be saved by a sibling, who is trying to not let this zombie sister get captured by authorities.

In “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead,” the zombie sister is Brooke (played by Bianca Bradey), who is supposed to be saved by her mechanic brother Barry (played by Jay Gallagher) during a series of inevitable gory scenes. Brooke and Barry are also in “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse.” In “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse,” a zombie sister named Grace (played by Tasia Zalar) is supposed to be saved her sister Maxi (played by Shantae Barnes-Cowan), while both sisters encounter a mercenary soldier named Rhys (played by Luke McKenzie), whose job is to capture zombie civilians to force them into a military that doesn’t have enough people.

The chief villain in “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is Surgeon General (played by Nicholas Boshier), the corrupt leader of the military. In the beginning of the movie, Grave and Maxi are looking for Barry and Brooke, because Brooke and Grace have something in common: They’re both a “hybrid”: a human who has not completely turned into a zombie yet. Rhys ends up capturing Grace, but his alliances might or might not be with Surgeon General during the course of the story.

As a sequel, “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” does a terrible job of explaining who Brooke and Barry are, as well as their backstories from “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead.” As a narrative film, “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” barely does anything to make viewers care about any of the movie’s characters, who say nothing but trite and embarrassingly bad dialogue. All of the acting in this movie is mediocre to horrible. “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” is just a sloppily directed zombie film that has a lot of blood and guts, but this movie has absolutely no heart or soul.

XYZ Films released “Wyrmwood: Apocalypse” on digital and VOD on April 14, 2022.

Review: ‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie,’ starring the voices of Eugene Mirman, John Roberts, Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz, H. Jon Benjamin, Kevin Kline and Zach Galifianakis

May 23, 2022

by Carla Hay

Linda Belcher (voiced by John Roberts), Louise Belcher (voiced by Kristen Schaal), Gene Belcher (voiced by Eugene Mirman), Tina Belcher (voiced by Dan Mintz) and Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) in “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie”

Directed by Loren Bouchard and Bernard Derriman

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed beach city in a U.S. state that resembles New Jersey, the animated film “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: The working-class Belcher family, which owns a fast-food restaurant called Bob’s Burgers, becomes involved in a murder mystery in the midst of having financial problems over a bank loan.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of fans of “The Bob’s Burgers” TV series, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” will appeal primarily to people interested in zany animated films that have comedy, drama and musical numbers that can be enjoyed by people of various generations.

A scene from “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (Image courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

Whenever there’s a movie based on a long-running TV series, one of the biggest mistakes that can happen is when the filmmakers make the movie confusing to viewers who’ve never seen the TV series. Fortunately, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” (which is based on the animated TV series “Bob’s Burgers”) does not fall into that trap. In fact, the movie is a great example of how to please existing fans, as well as how to win over newcomers to a franchise.

“Bob’s Burgers” (which premiered in 2011 and is televised in the U.S. on Fox) tells the ongoing story of the Belcher clan, a family of five whose patriarch owns and operate a small fast-food restaurant called Bob’s Burgers in an unnamed beach city in an unnamed U.S. state. (The show has dropped hints over the years that the state is probably New Jersey.) “Bob’s Burgers” creator showrunner Loren Bouchard wrote the screenplay for “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” which Bouchard co-directed with Bernard Derriman.

Here are the five people in the Belcher family:

  • Bob Belcher (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin), the pessimistic Bob’s Burgers owner, who’s always worrying that the restaurant is on the brink of failing.
  • Linda Belcher (voiced by John Roberts), Bob’s eternally optimistic wife, helps manage Bob’s Burgers. Linda and Bob are both 44 years old.
  • Tina Belcher (voiced by Dan Mintz), Bob and Linda’s “boy crazy” eldest child, who’s 13 years old. Tina has a crush on a fellow teenager named Jimmy Pesto Jr. (also voiced by Benjamin), who is the son of the man who owns Jimmy Pesto’s Pizza, the biggest competitor to Bob’s Burgers.
  • Gene Belcher (voiced by Eugene Mirman), Bob and Linda’s mild-mannered middle child, who is 11 years old. Gene, who is a keyboardist, is preoccupied with his fledgling pop/rock band The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee.
  • Louise Belcher (voiced by Kristen Schaal), Bob and Linda’s feisty youngest child, who is 9 years old. Louise is fond of wearing a pink rabbit-ears hat, and she dislikes being perceived as a weak and cowardly kid.

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” keeps things simple by not having too many of the characters that are in the “Bob’s Burgers” TV series take up a lot of screen time. (The character of Jimmy Pesto Sr. is not in the movie, because voice actor Jay Johnston has reportedly been dropped from the “Bob’s Burgers” franchise.) “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” could be a stand-alone story, with people never having to see the TV series to understand the movie. It’s a wise choice in the movie’s narrative, considering that many people seeing the “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” haven’t see any episodes of the TV series.

The essential plot of “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” intertwines two major problems experienced by the Belcher family: a bank loan deadline and a murder mystery. In the beginning of the movie, Bob’s Burgers is struggling to stay in business. Bob and Linda are denied an extension on a bank loan, which needs to be paid back in seven days. The day that Bob and Linda get this bad news, the street where Bob’s Burgers is located has a water main break because of old and leaky pipes underground. The breaking of the water main causes a massive sinkhole, right in front of the Bob’s Burgers entrance.

Bob’s Burgers temporarily uses a side door as its entrance and puts a sign out front saying that the restaurant is still open. But the damage to the business is devastating, since Bob’s Burgers gets no customers the day after the sinkhole has appeared. Bob starts to panic over how he’s going to pay back the loan, while Linda firmly believes that everything will eventually work out for the best. Linda thinks that all they have to do is make enough sales to get the money to pay back the loan.

Meanwhile, Louise (who is a student at Wagstaff School) is being harassed by a student bully named Chloe Barbash (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz), who makes fun of Louise, by calling her a “baby” for wearing a rabbit-ears hat. (The hat’s origin story is revealed in this movie.) This taunting then triggers Louise into attempting to prove to the other Wagstaff School students that Louise is no “baby” and that she’s braver than most children. Louise comes up with the idea to explore the sinkhole, and she enlists her siblings Gene and Tina to videorecord this expedition.

To the Belcher kids’ shock, Louise finds a skeleton of a man in the sinkhole. The police are called, and the sinkhole becomes a crime scene. A medical examination reveals that the man was murdered by being shot. The identity of the murdered man is revealed to be a local carnival worker named Danny D’Angelo, also known as Cotton Candy Dan. It’s also revealed that the murder took place six years ago. (The movie’s opening scene has a big hint that is connected to the murder.)

Calvin Fischoeder (voiced by Kevin Kline), the wealthy and pompous landlord for Bob’s Burgers, becomes the prime suspect in the murder, so he’s arrested. Also affected by this arrest are Calvin’s neurotic younger brother Felix Fischoeder (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) and Calvin’s talkative lawyer cousin Grover Fischoeder (voiced by David Wain), who is Calvin’s defense attorney. Bob fears that if Calvin is sent to prison for murder, Bob’s Burgers will lose its lease.

And so, there’s a “race against time” for the case to be solved, with the Belcher kids doing their own private investigation. A cranky cop named Sergeant Bosco (voiced by Gary Cole), who is a regular on the “Bob’s Burgers” TV series, is leading the police investigation. And, not surprisingly, he’s annoyed by anyone he thinks will be interfering in the case. Just like in the TV series, Sergeant Bosco can be a friend or a foe to the Belcher family in “The Bob’s Burgers Movie.”

Meanwhile, with the bank loan deadline approaching, Bob becoming increasingly desperate. And so, loyal Bob’s Burgers customer Teddy (voiced by Larry Murphy), who works as a contractor handyman and is Bob’s closest friend, comes up with the idea for Bob’s Burgers to set up a temporary food cart on the city’s beach boardwalk—even though Bob doesn’t have a permit to sell food on the boardwalk. Desperate times lead to desperate decisions, so they decide to take a chance and operate the food cart on the boardwalk anyway.

Teddy, who is a lonely and divorced bachelor, volunteers to be help operate the food cart by being the cook. Linda dresses up as a hamburger to entice customers. The movie has some amusing moments where Linda thinks that her selling skills are based on how sexy she thinks she looks in this ridiculous-looking burger costume. Bob predictably gets annoyed by Linda’s antics, and he becomes paranoid about getting busted for operating the food cart without a license.

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” also has recurring comedic moments about each of the Belcher kids’ current obsessions. Tina has fantasies about asking Jimmy Jr. to be her boyfriend for the summer, so there are dreamlike romantic scenarios that play out in Tina’s imagination. Gene dreams of becoming a rock star, so there are musical numbers in the movie with The Itty Bitty Ditty Committee performing the music. Louise imagines herself as a popular kid with a “badass” reputation among her schoolmates, so there are scenes of Louise doing whatever she thinks it will take to have this courageous and heroic image.

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” isn’t a mindless kiddie film, because it has plenty of jokes that adults will appreciate more than underage children will. These jokes have to do with social class and status issues that are presented in the story. Observant viewers will notice that all the grief that Louise goes through to change her image isn’t much different than all the trouble that adults go through to project a certain image, so that they can be considered “successful” by society.

The musical numbers in “The Bob’s Burger Movie” are very entertaining and amusing, particularly the performances of “Sunny Side Up Summer” and “Not That Evil.” Fortunately, this isn’t a movie where people break out into song every 10 minutes, because it would ruin the flow of the narrative. The mystery-solving part of the story gets a little convoluted and messy, but not too complicated.

“The Bob’s Burger Movie” continues the gender-swapping choices made in the “Bob’s Burgers” TV series casting, with men voicing some of the female characters, and women voicing some of the male characters. Benjamin (the voice of Bob) also voices the character of Ms. LaBonz, one of Louise’s teachers at Wagstaff School, while Roberts (the voice of Linda) is the also the voice of Jocelyn, one of Louise’s Wagstaff School classmates. As previously mentioned, Mintz is the voice of Tina.

There are also some celebrity cameos in gender-swapped roles. Jordan Peele continues as the voice of Fanny, Calvin’s much-younger singer girlfriend, who has a checkered past and a gold-digging agenda. Sarah Silverman and Laura Silverman are, respectively, the voices of Ollie and Andy, who are Jimmy Pesto Sr.’s twin sons.

In response to criticism that the “Bob’s Burgers” TV series cast white actors to voice African American characters, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” has added some racial diversity to the cast. Nicole Byer (host of Netflix’s cooking competition “Nailed It!”) is the voice of Olsen Benner, an African American TV reporter, who has been voiced by Pamela Adlon in the “Bob’s Burger” TV series. Ashley Nicole Black (a writer for “Ted Lasso”) is now the voice of Harley, an African American girl who’s a classmate of Louise’s at Wagstaff School. Katie Crown was previously the voice of Harley.

Even with a lot of side characters, “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” remains focused on the Belcher family. The Belcher kids get a lot of screen time with the murder investigation, which is a more interesting and funnier part of the movie than the part of the movie about Bob, Linda and Teddy selling burgers on the boardwalk. And out of all the Belcher children, Louise is the one with the standout character arc. There’s not a bad actor in this entire cast.

“The Bob’s Burgers Movie” has wide appeal, but it’s not a movie that some people might enjoy if they’re looking for more dazzling visuals in an animated film. However, for viewers who care more about animated movies that have characters with memorable personalities, some snarky jokes, and an engaging story that’s easy to follow, then “The Bob Burgers Movie” delivers this type of entertainment in a lighthearted and playful way.

20th Century Studios will release “The Bob’s Burgers Movie” in U.S. cinemas on May 27, 2022.

True Crime Entertainment: What’s New This Week

The following content is generally available worldwide, except where otherwise noted. All TV shows listed are for networks and streaming services based in the United States. All movies listed are those released in U.S. cinemas. This schedule is for content and events premiering this week and does not include content that has already been made available.

May 23 – May 29, 2022

TV/Streaming Services

All times listed are Eastern Time/Pacific Time, unless otherwise noted.

ABC News’ four-episode docuseries “Keeper of the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders” premieres on Hulu on Tuesday, May 24 at 3 a.m. ET/12 a.m. PT.

Monday, May 23

“Murder in the Heartland”
“Homicide Hotel” (Episode 410)
Monday, May 23, 8 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Fatal Attraction”
“Severed Ties” (Episode 1218)
Monday, May 23, 9 p.m., TV One

“Two Shallow Graves”
“The Desert Ping” (Episode 104) 
Monday, May 23, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Two Shallow Graves”
“Where’s Dan?” (Episode 105) 
Monday, May 23, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Tuesday, May 24

Keeper of the Ashes: The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders” (Four-episode docuseries)
(Episode 101-104)
Tuesday, May 24, 3 a.m. ET/12 a.m. PT, Hulu

“Sins of the Amish” (Two-episode docuseries)
(Episode 101-102)
Tuesday, May 24, 3 a.m. ET/12 a.m. PT, Peacock

“Gangsters: America’s Most Evil”
“Anthony Spilotro” (Episode 610)
Tuesday, May 24, 9 p.m., Reelz

“Two Shallow Graves”
“The Verdict” (Episode 106) 
Tuesday, May 24, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Two Shallow Graves”
“Stay Out of Dodge” (Episode 107) 
Tuesday, May 24, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Wednesday, May 25

“Dateline”
“The Halloween Party”
Wednesday, May 25, 8 p.m., Oxygen

“To Catch a Smuggler: Rome”
“Captured Carriers” (Episode 110)
Wednesday, May 25, 9 p.m., National Geographic

“See No Evil”
“Dirven to Murder” (Episode 904)
Wednesday, May 25, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“I Went Undercover”
“The Hit on the Handyman” (Episode 102)
Wednesday, May 25, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Thursday, May 26

“The First 48: After the First 48”
“Old Wounds” (Episode 83)
Thursday, May 26, 8 p.m., A&E

“Accused: Guilty or Innocent?”
“Deadly Veteran or Self-Protection” (Episode 301) **Season Premiere**
Thursday, May 26, 9 p.m., A&E

“Crimes Gone Viral”
“Reckless at the Wheel” (Episode 301) **Season Premiere**
Thursday, May 26, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Interrogation Raw”
“Oh No You Don’t!” (Episode 102)
Thursday, May 26, 10 p.m., A&E

“Devil in the Web”
“Cyber-Stalker” (Episode 101) **Series Premiere**
Thursday, May 26, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Friday, May 27

“20/20”
TBA
Friday, May 27, 9 p.m., ABC

“Dateline”
TBA
Friday, May 27, 9 p.m., NBC

Saturday, May 28

“Murdered by Morning”
“Gone Camping” (Episode 204)
Saturday, May 28, 8 p.m., Oxygen

“48 Hours”
TBA
Saturday, May 28, 10 p.m., CBS

Sunday, May 29

“Killer Couples”
“Francesca Kiel and Ralph Keppler” (Episode 1607)
Sunday, May 29, 6 p.m., Oxygen

“Exhumed”
“Burning Obsession” (Episode 205)
Sunday, May 29, 7 p.m., Oxygen

“Someone They Knew …. With Tamron Hall”
(Episode 113)
Sunday, May 29, 8 p.m., Court TV

“American Monster”
“Tell Me You Love Me” (Episode 801) **Season Premiere**
Sunday, May 29, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery

“Sex & Murder”
“Murder on the Farm” (Episode 306) **Season Finale**
Sunday, May 29, 9 p.m., HLN

“On the Case With Paula Zahn”
“The Smallest Clue” (Episode 2413)
Sunday, May 29, 10 p.m., Investigation Discovery

Movie Theaters and Home Video

No new true crime movies released in theaters or home video this week.

Radio/Podcasts

No new true crime podcast series premiering this week.

Events

Events listed here are not considered endorsements by this website. All ticket buyers with questions or concerns about the event should contact the event promoter or ticket seller directly.

All start times listed are local time, unless otherwise noted.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many in-person events that would normally be in-person are now being held as virtual/online events.

No new true crime events this week.

Review: ‘Take Me to the River: New Orleans,’ starring the Neville Brothers, Irma Thomas, Big Freedia, Dr. John, the Rebirth Brass Band, Snoop Dogg and Ledisi

May 22, 2022

by Carla Hay

A scene from “Take Me to the River: New Orleans” with entertainers that include Aaron Neville, Cyril Neville and Charles Neville (far right); members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band; and director Martin Shore (second from left). (Photo courtesy of 360 Distribution)

“Take Me to the River: New Orleans”

Directed by Martin Shore

Culture Representation: The documentary “Take Me to the River: New Orleans” features a racially diverse (African Americans and white people) group of music artists and some producers talking about New Orleans music as they record the movie’s soundtrack songs.

Culture Clash: New Orleans has been a melting pot of different types of music, with certain genres (such as jazz and blues) originating directly from African American experiences of being enslaved and oppressed.

Culture Audience: “Take Me to the River: New Orleans” will appeal mostly to people who are interested in seeing New Orleans music and culture celebrated by music artists of many different generations.

Irma Thomas in “Take Me to the River: New Orleans” (Photo courtesy of 360 Distribution)

“Take Me to the River: New Orleans” is partly a promotional vehicle showing the recording of the songs on the movie’s soundtrack and partly a history of New Orleans music culture. The documentary has got some editing issues, but the diverse performances in the studio are joyous to watch. Fans of jazz, blues, R&B, rap/hip-hop, Cajun and brass band music will find something to like in “Take Me to the River: New Orleans,” which has representation of all of these music genres.

Directed by Martin Shore and narrated by actor John Goodman, “Take Me to the River: New Orleans” is a sequel to Shore’s 2014 documentary “Take Me to the River,” which focused on the musical history and legacy of Memphis. “Take Me to the River: New Orleans” is not a fully comprehensive history of New Orleans music, because most of the history discussed is about the New Orleans music scene in the 20th century and the early 21st century. And the history is only covered in the context of which songs are on the soundtrack album to “Take Me to the River: New Orleans.” For example, before the recording of a Cajun song is performed, the movie does a brief history of Cajun music in New Orleans.

Filming of the documentary mostly took place at two New Orleans recording studios: Music Shed Studios and The Parlor Recording Studio. On the one hand, it gives viewers a very up-close and intimate view of the artists and their creative process when recording music in a studio. On the other hand, it makes the documentary look somewhat insular by putting so much focus on the recording studio sessions.

New Orleans has a vibrant live music scene that is barely covered in this documentary. There is some brief footage of outdoor performances by local street performers during parades, as well as very old archival clips of concerts by a few well-known New Orleans artists. That’s the extent to which live performances are covered in “Take Me to the River: New Orleans.”

The concept for the documentary and its soundtrack was to bring together artists of various generations to record classic songs that have New Orleans origins. Many of the artists in these recording sessions are New Orleans natives or people whose careers have been significantly influenced by New Orleans culture. And, not surprisingly, the documentary interviews have nothing but praise for New Orleans.

The artists who participated in these recording sessions included the Neville Brothers, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Ledisi, G-Eazy, Snoop Dogg, William Bell, Galactic, Mannie Fresh, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, George Porter Jr., Christian Scott, Donald Harrison Jr., Big Freedia, Ani DiFranco, Maroon 5 keyboardist PJ Morton, Rebirth Brass Band, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Soul Rebels, Voice of the Wetlands, 79rs Gang, The Givers, Dumpstaphunk, Cheeky Blakk, Lost Bayou Ramblers, Big Sam, Terence Higgins, Shannon Powell, Whirlin’ Herlin Riley, Alvin Ford Jr., Stanton Moore, 5th Ward Weebie, Walter Wolfman Washington, Eric Heigle, Dee-1, Erica Falls, Ivan Neville, Ian Neville and Davell Crawford. In addition, “Take Me to the River: New Orleans” has interviews with some artists who weren’t part of these recording sessions, including Jon Batiste, Mia X, DJ Soul Sister, Jazz Fest founding producer Quint Davis and Deacon John Moore.

The documentary features the recordings of these songs:

  • “Wish Someone Would Care,” performed by Irma Thomas and Ledisi
  • “Li’l Liza Jane,” performed by drummers Terence Higgins, Shannon Powell, Whirlin’ Herlin Riley, Alvin Ford Jr. and Stanton Moore
  • “Firewater” performed by Donald Harrison Jr. and Christian Scott
  • “Wrong Part of Town,” performed by 79rs Gang
  • “Sand Castle Headhunter,” performed by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band
  • “Blue Moon Special,” performed by Roots of Music, Ani DiFranco and Lost Bayou Ramblers
  • “Stompin’ Ground,” performed by Aaron Neville
  • “Hey Mama (Wild Tchoupitoulas)” performed by the Neville Brothers
  • “504 (Enjoy Yourself),” performed by Soul Rebels and 5th Ward Weebie
  • “Street Parade,” performed by Cyril Neville
  • “New Orleans Girl,” performed by PJ Morton, Rebirth Brass Band and Cheeky Blakk
  • “Act Like You Know,” performed by Dee-1, Mannie Fresh, Erica Falls and Big Freedia
  • “Jack-A-Mo,” performed by Dr. John and Davell Crawford
  • “Yes We Can Can,” performed by William Bell, Snoop Dogg and G-Eazy

“Take Me to the River: New Orleans” includes discussions of Mardis Gras Indian culture in New Orleans; the origins of “bounce” hip-hop in New Orleans; the influential legacy of New Orleans musician/producer Allen Toussaint; and the impact of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans music scene. The words “family” and “community” come up a lot when people talk about the New Orleans music scene.

DJ Soul Sister, Big Freedia and Mia X are among the artists who say that many musicians permanently moved out of New Orleans after the devastation of Hurrican Katrina. Mia X comments on the New Orleans music scene after Hurricane Katrina, “We have this sense of family, unlike no other city, but it’s different.” As difficult as it was for many people to recover from Hurrican Katrina, the recovery process is testament to New Orleans’ resilience. In the documentary, rapper 5th Ward Weebie says, “If you ever seen people go through tough times, rough times, and still come at the end of the day smile about it, that’s what makes New Orleans unique.”

New Orleans native Morton says that he wrote “New Orleans Girl” after Hurricane Katrina changed the city. Morton says about the song “New Orleans is the girl. I’ve been all over the world, and there’s no place like New Orleans.” Snoop Dogg comments, “New Orleans is a safe haven of love.” Aaron Neville states, “New Orleans music is a way of life.”

A recurring theme in the documentary is the importance of passing down musical and cultural traditions or “passing the torch” to younger generations. Many of the New Orleans native musicians have the experience of growing up in musical families and with older musical mentors, perhaps more than musicians who grow up in many other cities. Powell says of learning from his elders: “I hung out with the old cats. I was taught not only how to play the drums but how to be a man.”

Riley, who’s been a drummer for Wynton Marsalis and George Benson, says in the documentary: “My family were my biggest influences My uncle and my grandfather [band leader Frank Lastie], they showed me how to play the drums. My grandfather showed me how to play [the drums] with butter knives … on the breakfast table … There’s a unique and distinct way we play the bass drums here. It really identifies the New Orleans sound.”

There’s a considerable segment on how African-oriented music intertwined with Native American culture in New Orleans, and this blend gave rise to Mardi Gras Indians, who have elaborate costumes and ritual dancing. The male leaders of these Mardi Gras Indian groups are called Big Chiefs, while the female leaders are called Big Queens. Many of these leaders have their own music groups.

The documentary features interviews with Big Chief Bo Dollis Jr. of the Wild Magnolias; his mother Big Queen Laurita Dollis; and 79rs Gang members Big Chief Romeo Bougere of the 9th Ward Hunters and Big Chief Jermaine Bossier of the 7th Ward Creole Hunters. Bougere and Bossier say that even though the 7th Ward and the 9th Ward are considered rival wards with a lot of feuding, these two musical collaborators decided to form the 79rs Gang to show that these two communities can be united through music.

Bougere comments, “We need to get past hating someone because they’re from another ward.” Bossier adds of Mardi Gras Indian culture, “This is a warrior culture. Things happen. But for the most part, it’s about being pretty. It’s about showing off your suit.”

One of the highlights of “Take Me to the River” is the collaboration between Thomas and Ledisi, who is ecstatic over being able to perform and record a song with one of her musical idols. Ledisi (who grew up in the New Orleans music scene, where her mother Nyra Dynese was in a band) practically swoons when Thomas greets her at the studio by giving Ledisi a gift of shrimp and okra. “Yes! She hooked me up, man!” Ledisi exclaims. And later Ledisi literally jumps up and down with joy after she and Thomas record their duet of “Wish Someone Would Care,” one of Thomas’ classics.

Thomas says of Ledisi and the legacy of New Orleans music culture: “As far as I’m concerned, she’s one of the few who will be passing it on … She seems to have a natural knack for it. And that’s a good thing. I feel very good about passing the torch to her.” Ledisi adds, “We don’t want to lose the story. We’ve got to honor our legends while they’re here.”

DiFranco comments, “The deepness and the intactness of the New Orleans community is being threatened. As a result, people here have to be more intentional about staying in touch with those roots, so the continuum is not broken.”

Preservation Hall Jazz Band member Ben Jaffe, whose parents Allan and Sandra Jaffe co-founded the legendary Preservation Hall music venue, says of continuing this legacy: “The most important thing that Preservation Hall can do is make music available to people. When we’re collaborating with musicians, we’re not looking for someone who has an affinity for New Orleans jazz or understands New Orleans jazz. We’re looking for people who share our soul.”

Another documentary highlight is the Neville Brothers’ recording of “Hey Mama (Wild Tchoupitoulas).” Not only was it the first time in years that brothers Aaron Neville, Cyril Neville, Art Neville and Charles Neville were in the same recording studio together, it would also turn out to be the last recording that all four brothers would make together. Charles Neville died in 2018, and Art Neville died in 2019.

Unfortunately, parts of “Take Me to the River: New Orleans” look very dated because of the deaths of some of the documentary’s on-camera participants. By the time “Take Me to the River: New Orleans” was released in theaters in 2022, several people in the documentary had already passed away. They include Charles Neville, Art Neville, Dr. John (who died in 2019) and 5th Ward Weebie (who died in 2020). However, it doesn’t take away from the great music shown in the documentary.

“Take Me to the River: New Orleans” has some flawed editing that doesn’t always make the transition between the topics very smooth. And except for a brief mention by a Neville family member that the Neville Brothers were ripped off by bad business deals at the height of their careers, the documentary glosses over any mention of corruption in the music industry and how it affected New Orleans artists. Ultimately, the best parts of the movie are in seeing the artists and their talent come alive when collaborating in the studio with other artists they admire and respect.

360 Distribution released “Take Me to the River: New Orleans” in select U.S. cinemas, beginning in New Orleans on April 22, 2022, and in New York City and Los Angeles on April 29, 2022.

Review: ‘Tankhouse,’ starring Tara Holt, Stephen Friedrich, Richard Kind and Christopher Lloyd

May 21, 2022

by Carla Hay

Pictured from left right: Sarah Yarkin (in back) Luke Spencer Roberts, Joe Adler, Nadia Alexander, Tara Holt, Stephen Friedrich, Devere Rogers and Austin Crute in “Tankhouse” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Tankhouse”

Directed by Noam Tomaschoff

Culture Representation: Taking place in Fargo, North Dakota, and briefly in New York City, the comedy film “Tankhouse” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and one Latino) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After being blacklisted from the New York City theater scene, engaged actor couple Tucker Charlamagne and Sandrene St. Jean go to Fargo, North Dakota, to enter a performing arts contest where the winner will get a residency at the newly restored Fargo Theatre.

Culture Audience: “Tankhouse” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of satirical comedies about theater people, but the movie’s silly tone wears thin very quickly.

Stephen Friedrich and Tara Holt in “Tankhouse” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

The performing arts parody “Tankhouse” isn’t nearly as funny as it thinks it is. The movie’s broadly written characters are hollow. The comedy too often misses the mark. Hint: Shouting witless dialogue doesn’t make it more amusing. And there’s a lot of shouting in this movie, as the cast members were apparently told that their characters have to yell for no good reason for about half of their screen time.

Directed by Noam Tomaschoff (who co-wrote “Tankhouse” with Chelsea Frei), “Tankhouse” is based on a short film of the same name written by Tomaschoff and Frei. Both “Tankhouse” movies take inspiration from the real-life New York City theater experiences of Tomaschoff and Frei, who both took an opportunity to go to a smaller city to stage a production. It’s essentially a similar story for the “Tankhouse” protagonist couple—Tucker Charlamagne (played by Stephen Friedrich) and Sandrene St. Jean (played by Tara Holt)—two down-on-their-luck actors who are engaged to be married and who stage a production in Fargo, North Dakota, after their careers falter in New York City.

In the “Tankhouse” feature film production notes, Frei says that Sandrene and Tucker are “absurd versions” of herself and Tomaschoff. In the case of Tucker, you can also add the description “extremely obnoxious.” That’s because Tucker (who talks the most in this movie) is a rude and pretentious twit who wants to be the “alpha male” of everything, but he ends up making a mess of things, more often than not. Because so much of the “Tankhouse” narrative is given to Tucker, the movie becomes as blustering and buffoonish as Tucker.

“Tankhouse” is also one of those movies that pulls a “bait and switch” on audiences, by giving well-known actors top billing, but those actors aren’t in the movie for very long. Fans of actor Christopher Lloyd (who’s best known for his roles in the “Back to the Future” movies and the sitcom “Taxi”) will be disappointed to find out that his total screen time in “Tankhouse” is less than 10 minutes, with all of his scenes happening in the first third of the movie. Notable character actor Richard Kind (best known for his roles in the TV comedy series “Mad About You” and “Spin City”) also shares top billing for “Tankhouse,” but his screen time is limited to less than 10 minutes too.

The “Tankhouse” movie poster also shows Kind, Holt, Friedrich and Lloyd all peeking out together from a stage curtain. It’s a misleading image, because it suggests that all four of them are equal co-stars in “Tankhouse.” The reality is that Lloyd and Kind barely have supporting roles in the movie, and their roles are basically just playing cranky know-it-alls, which is the type of character they’ve played many times already in movies and TV. Can you say “typecasting”?

“Tankhouse” has some whimsical-looking animation for some flashback scenes, including an early scene in the movie when narrator Tucker explains how he met and fell in love with Sandrene. (Her real last name is Rothstein. St. Jean is her stage surname.) Tucker says that shortly after getting his bachelor of fine arts degree at an unnamed university, he was directing an off-off-Broadway movement piece in New York City when Sandrene walked into the show.

Sandrene was doing research for a cop TV series called “Rookie Badge” that she was about to co-star in, but her role ended up being drastically reduced. Sandrene and Tucker began dating and have been a couple for an unspecified period of time. Tucker is the type of actor who looks down on TV work. He believes that an actor’s true merit and talent can be found doing work on stage. Tucker’s snobbery toward television is something to keep in mind during a plot development later in “Tankhouse.”

Now in their 30s, Sandrene and Tucker are engaged to be married. And they’re still struggling actors in New York City. However, a possible bright spot in their careers is that Tucker and Sandrene have been put in charge of the Artist Atelier Acting Studio, an avant-garde performing arts group founded by Buford Slezinger (played by Lloyd), who has been Tucker’s mentor. Buford stepped down as the leader of the Artist Atelier Acting Studio because his chronic battle with gout has resulted in him using a wheelchair.

It’s implied that Buford is an “old school” sexist, because one of the first things that he’s shown doing is barking out his “rules” for success to the small group of people in this theater troupe: “I have two notes: (1) A worthy actress must always carry a fan; (2) If you want to make it in this business, you’ve got to immediately lose 10 pounds.”

Buford likes to think that he’s a highly respected guru of the New York theater scene, but he doesn’t have a large following. The Artist Atelier Acting Studio has a very small number of actors: only seven, including Tucker and Sandrene. And this small theater group often gets an even smaller audience for performances. Even though Buford has stepped down from his leadership position for the Artist Atelier Acting Studio, Buford stays involved in the group by being a consultant/adviser.

Tucker likes to talk in flowery speech to make it sound like he’s a theater-trained actor who’s always the smartest actor in the room. However, his social skills are horrible, since Tucker frequently loses his temper and berates the people around him. Sandrene is usually spared Tucker’s wrath because she passively goes along with almost everything he wants to do.

Adding to Tucker’s pompous and ridiculous persona, he styles his hair and wears clothes like he’s a trying to be a combination of a Brooklyn hipster and “Pirates of the Caribbean” character Captain Jack Sparrow. For example, Tucker is the type of man who will wear flowing scarves with a black leather jacket. And his fashion choices for his theater troupe are questionable at best, since he makes the troupe members all wear unitards or onesies in their performances.

It’s at one of these performances that leads to the downfall of Tucker and Sandrene in the New York City theater scene. The Artist Atelier Acting Studio troupe is doing a rooftop performance in the Bronx, with only six people watching the show. The performance involves spontaneous interaction with the audience members.

One of the audience members is a wheelchair-using elderly woman (played by Bunny Levine), who ends up having a heart attack during the vigorous audience interaction part of the show. As a result of the heart attack, she dies during this performance. And there happens to be a theater critic in the audience named Jax Wynn (played by Rebecca Sohn), who (not surprisingly) gives the show a very negative review.

The woman who died during the show wasn’t just any audience member. Her name was Doris Feinstein. She was the “nana” (grandmother) of Artist Atelier Acting Studio member Asher (played by Carlos R. Chavez), and she was the Artist Atelier Acting Studio’s only financial backer. With their principal benefactor now deceased, the group has an emergency meeting with Buford observing.

Sandrene expresses her condolences to Asher about his grandmother’s death, but insensitive Tucker exclaims about Doris’ last moments: “Doris lived as she never lived before! Nana’s death: It’s the circle of life!” And this callous comment is not the only thing that causes alienation. The rest of the group members express their anger at Tucker and Sandrene for the couple making the group members do extreme performance tactics, such as having unsimulated sex and using real guns during a show.

Tucker and Sandrene are informed that the rest of the group has voted to oust Tucker and Sandrene as leaders of the Artist Atelier Acting Studio. Buford agrees that the majority of the group should decide this matter. And so, Tucker and Sandrene no longer have a theater group. When they try to get work elsewhere, they find out that they’ve been blacklisted because of the death that happened during that rooftop performance.

With their money running out and their rent due, Tucker and Sandrene are visited by Sandrene’s parents Deirdra (played by Joey Lauren Adams) and Bob (played by Andy Buckley, who still live in Sandrene’s hometown of Fargo. Tucker and Sandrene tell her parents that they have a great idea to start a theater troupe, but they need Deirdra and Bob to invest some money in it. Deirdra and Bob have been helping Sandrene financially, but this time, they’ve had enough of financially supporting her, so they say no to this pitch.

However, Deirdra tells Tucker and Sandrene that the Fargo Theatre has been recently refurbished and restored. And the city of Fargo is having a performing arts contest where the winner will get a residency at the Fargo Theatre. Theater snob Tucker is dead-set against the idea, because he thinks going to a place like Fargo is far beneath his talent. Sandrene is more open to the idea, especially since her parents offered their ranch house to Sandrene and Tucker to stay rent-free in Fargo, while Deirdra and Bob go on a safari in Tanzania.

Tucker asks Buford for his advice in this matter. To Tucker’s surprise and dismay, Buford suggests that Tucker and Sandrene go to Fargo for this opportunity. Buford tells Tucker that Tucker and Sandrene need to expand their actor experiences outside of New York City and that they can learn from these experiences. After some unsuccessful attempts to get enough cash to pay their rent, Tucker reluctantly changes his mind and goes to Fargo with Sandrene so that they can enter the contest.

Before going to Fargo, Sandrene was selling some of her clothes at a vintage store when she encountered a friend named Brian (played by “Tankhouse” director Tomaschoff), whom she hadn’t seen in a long time. In this scene, Sandrene and Brian catch up on what’s been going on in their lives, but Sandrene doesn’t tell him about her recent career problems. Brian tells Sandrene that he’s now a talent coordinator at a big agency called United Talent International.

Brian offers to help find actor work for Sandrene, who is thrilled. But the timing couldn’t be worse, because she will soon be going to Fargo, for who knows how long. Still, she’s open to opportunities where she can audition with video recordings. Sandrene doesn’t tell Tucker about it though, because she knows that this agency is most likely to find her a job in TV or in movies, and Tucker disapproves of any actor work that isn’t on stage.

Tucker also has a very jealous side to him. It comes out when Tucker and Sandrene go to Fargo, and they encounter Sandrene’s ex-boyfriend from high school. His name is Hank (played by Alex Esola), and he seems to still be in awe of Sandrene. At an Open Mic night at a local bar, Tucker becomes even more irritated when Hank invites Sandrene to sing with Hank during an acoustic guitar performance. She enthusiastically accepts the offer, and Tucker watches their duet while seething with annoyance.

Somehow, a bar fight ensues that lands Tucker and Sandrene in jail, where they meet an eccentric, wannabe actor named Uther (played by Devere Rogers), who always wears sunglasses because he claims to be legally blind. After getting out on bail, Tucker and Sandrene decide they’re going to form a theater group to enter the contest. Their biggest competition is a theater group named Red River Players, formed by Morten Mortensen (played by Kind), who used to be Sandrene’s drama teacher in high school.

Tucker and Sandrene then assemble a theater group that consists of Uther and five young bar patrons who saw Sandrene perform with Hank. These five other Fargo misfits are mild-mannered tech nerd Nina (played by Sarah Yarkin); Viking-obsessed Scandinavian immigrant Yorick (played by Joe Adler); militant feminist Leah (played by Nadia Alexander); and semi-closeted gay couple Jack (played by Austin Crute) and Brady (played by Luke Spencer Roberts), who have a “coming out” scene that is awkward at best. The group’s rehearsal space is a place called Tankhouse, a warehouse-styled building that Yorick has turned into a makeshift moonshine distillery. The expected hijinks ensue in a movie where the characters want to win a contest, but these shenanigans are a lot duller than they should be.

As the optimistic but often-flaky actress Sandrene, Holt gives the best performance out of all the “Tankhouse” cast members, because she comes closest to not letting the character become a caricature. Tucker is just a train wreck abomination for most of the movie, and Friedkin seems to be doing the best he can with portraying an insufferable jerk. Any transformations that Tucker might experience to improve his personality are very abrupt and crammed in as an afterthought to make him look redeemable. However, all of the characters in “Tankhouse” ultimately are very shallow and written as “types” instead of fully formed personalities.

“Tankhouse” isn’t a completely horrible movie. There are sporadic moments that should bring some laughs, such as a “musical theater” verbal battle (similar to a rap battle), with Sandrene and Tucker versus Morten in performing “The Pirates of Penzance” song “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General.” Tucker the lunkhead also has some moments that should make viewers laugh, such as his habit of unwittingly mispronouncing words. His bungled linguistics are supposed to be ironic, considering that Tucker wants to have an image of being a highbrow actor with a strong command of the English language.

But these occasionally comical moments in “Tankhouse” are overshadowed by all the moronic posturing, dimwitted character scheming and the aforementioned unnecessary shouting of mediocre lines that pollute “Tankhouse.” The movie’s musical score—written by Craig McConnell and clearly inspired by 1980s sitcom music—alternates between sometimes sounding appropriate for the scenes, and other times just being downright aggravating. The middle section of the movie drags monotonously, even when “Tankhouse” attempts to have a high-energy, slapstick tone throughout the movie.

Physical comedy works best if the dialogue and characters are interesting too. Unfortunately, “Tankhouse” falls short when it comes to having dialogue and characters that are truly engaging. Watching “Tankhouse” is like being stuck in a room with people manically telling mostly bad jokes for about 90 minutes, and the people telling the jokes mistakenly think that they’re hilarious. The “Tankhouse” filmmakers also do not present the story in a consistent way, because “Tankhouse” tries and fails be both a lighthearted comedy and a dark farce. And some of the “gags” just don’t work and add nothing to the movie, such as a joke about Sandrene’s father Bob pressuring vegan Tucker to eat some bison beef jerky.

Supporting characters such as Fargo theater actress Mackenzie Billingham (played by Rachel Matthews) and Jack’s police captain mother Pauline Mikkelsen (played by Carolyn Michelle Smith) are very underwritten and are only used as plot devices to drop some surprises on the Tankhouse group. Although the ending of “Tankhouse” does not take a completely predictable route, it’s still too little, too late. “Tankhouse” might be trying to get the type of cult-audience status of director Christopher Guest’s classic 1996 community theater mockumentary “Waiting for Guffman,” but “Tankhouse” lacks the wit and the charm to gain a notable cult following.

Vertical Entertainment released “Tankhouse” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on May 13, 2022.

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